Actor, Producer. Most remembered for his dapper English roles in such films as the Pink Panther series, "Around the World in Eighty Days" (1956), and numerous other films, he won the Academy Award for Best Male Performance for his role in "Separate Tables" (1958). Born in London, England, the son of a British Army Captain who was killed at Gallipoli in 1915, he attended Stowe School and Sandhurst Military Academy, where he was commissioned and served two years with the Highland Light Infantry. Leaving the army in 1931, he worked at a variety of jobs before trying his hand at acting. His first role was in "There Goes the Bride" (1932). When Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, he immediately returned to England and enlisted in the British Army, serving in the commandos and rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During the war he also made two British propaganda movies "The First of the Few "(1942) and "The Way Ahead" (1944). Despite six years absence from the American screen, he came in second in a 1945 American popularity poll of British Actors. In 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower presented him with the Legion of Merit (then called Legionnaire of the Order of Merit). After the war, he continued to act in numerous films, including "The Guns of Navarone" (1961), "Bonjour Tristesse" (1958), "Death on the Nile" (1978), and the Pink Panther series of films. He was considered for the role of 'James Bond' in the film "Dr. No" (a role that went to Scottish actor Sean Connery) but did play the role in the film "Casino Royale" (1967). He wrote two autobiographies, "The Moon's a Balloon" (1971) and "Bring on the Empty Horses" (1975), and had two shows on television. He was married twice, and had two sons by his first wife and two daughters by his second. His son, David Jr, is also an actor. During his last film, "The Curse of the Pink Panther" (1983), he could barely speak as he was dying, and his speaking voice was dubbed in by his good friend, comedian and voice mimic Rich Little, who requested no credit in the film. This secret was kept for many years.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
William Edward Graham Niven