Outside of perhaps Laurence Olivier, has there ever been a British actor who reigned as a classic Hollywood movie star with the tenacity and persistence of the subject of our Monday Quiz? Just asking.
David Niven began his movie career in 1932, and one way or another through a key interruption worked right up until 1983, the year he died age 73.
While his early roles (he rolled up 113 movie and tv credits in all) included an uncredited bit in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 epic rendition of Cleopatra, he was a full-fledged international star — someone who put the butts in seats — by the early Sixties when The Guns of Navarone had world audiences hanging on its tale of British commandos taking on formidable German placements in World War II Greece.
Ironic is the fact that despite his easy cinematic charm, bespeaking facile aristocracy, Niven really was a down and dirty commando in Europe during the War. His career was bifurcated by the conflict, and can easily be divided by films before 1939 and after 1945.
We like Niven, and believe you should know more about him. Thus today’s quiz. (As usual, answers tomorrow.) We are particularly inspired here by the actor’s superb 1972 autobiography, The Moon’s A Balloon.
1) Question: By simply introducing him around, a short, homely woman was credited by Niven for essentially starting his career. Can you identify this woman? a) Louella Parsons; b) Elsa Maxwell; c) Eleanor Roosevelt; or d) Hedda Hopper.
2) Question: Which of the following producers was most instrumental in aiding Niven’s Hollywood ascent? a) David O. Selznick; b) Louis B. Mayer; c) Harry Cohn; or d) Samuel Goldwyn.
3) Question: Which of the following classic movie directors provided the most help to an inexperienced, young David Niven? a) William Wyler; b) Edmund Goulding; c) John Ford; or d) Michael Curtiz.
4) Question: Niven (almost) appeared in the same movie that was the debut of an unknown actor who went on to Hollywood royalty. Who was this actor? a) Errol Flynn; b) James Stewart; c) Ray Milland; or d) Joel McCrea.
5) Question: Shortly after World War II ended, Niven suffered a deep personal setback when his war bride of six years took a fatal fall down a flight of stars at the Hollywood home of a famous movie actor. Can you name this actor? a) Tyrone Power; b) Ronald Colman; c) Clark Gable; or d) Gary Cooper.
6) Question: Did David Niven ever play agent 007 in any of the James Bond pictures? a) Yes (and name the film); or b) No.
7) Question: Can you name the first movie in which Niven had a speaking part? Can you name the last?
8) Question: Niven was famously barred from the Columbia Pictures lot for which one of the following reasons? a) His political views; b) He deliberately insulted a high executive’s wife at a social gathering; b) He played a practical joke on the studio’s boss, who interpreted it as an insult; d) He made an unwanted advance to Rita Hayworth, Columbia’s biggest star.
9) Question: At one point, Niven shared a house in Malibu with Errol Flynn that they called “Cirrhosis by the Sea.” a) True; or b) False.
10) Question: For which movie did Niven win his best actor Oscar? a) Separate Tables; b) Bonjour Tristesse; c) Around the World in 80 Days; or d) Fifty-five Days at Peking.