David Niven

Born: March 1, 1910
Died: July 29, 1983

Occupation: Actor

Challenges overcome: Motor Neurone Disease

Successes, Achievements & Awards:

David Niven was a successful and popular actor famous for his roles in movies, such as ‘The Pink Panther’ and ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, and well loved in Europe and America.

David Niven was born in London on 1 March 1910 and he attended Sandhurst Academy, graduating in 1930 as a second lieutenant before being assigned to the Argyll and Sutherlands Highlanders where he served for two years before moving to New York to pursue an acting career. His role in ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ introduced him to Samuel Goldwyn, who signed him to a contract and started his career. At first, he only had supporting or background roles, like in ‘Rose-Marie’, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’, before he had leading roles in ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Three Blind Mice’ and ‘The Dawn Patrol’.

David Niven returned to England to rejoin the army in 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany. He began the war as a Lieutenant and ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel. When he returned to America after the war, he was awarded a Legion of Merit from President Eisenhower for his work setting up the BBC Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme, a radio station providing news and entertainment for the allied forces.

He resumed his film career in 1946, only taking on lead roles.  He won a Golden Globe Award in 1953 for his role in The Moon is Blue, and an Academy Award in 1958 for his role in ‘Separate Tables’. He continued to act in films and television until the 1980’s.

Challenges Overcome

David began experiencing fatigue and muscle weakness in 1980 and was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 1981, aslo known as ALS. The disease caused him to have slurred speech which caused the general public to worry he was either drunk or had a stroke during his public appearance in 1980-81. After 1981, David no longer made anymore public appearances and retreated to his chalet in Switzerland refusing hospitalisation to help with his disability.

In the few months before his death, David struggled with his health and had lost a lot of weight. He could only eat soft foods and had to massage his throat to be able to swallow them. Still struggling with slurred speech, it was hard to understand him and this frustrated him a lot. He died on 29th July 1983 at the age of 73.

Disability Definitions

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s or Motor Neuron Disease, is a progressive, neuromuscular disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord.  Motor neurons, among the largest of all nerve cells, reach the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body.  When these motor neurons die, the brain can no longer start and control muscle movement.


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Information sources:

Please click on the information links below to find out more.

David Niven. (2015, May 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia. Retrieved 12:39, June 8, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=David_Niven&oldid=662043700


Image source: Wikicommons

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