Monday, March 1, 2010

David Niven, 1910-1983

David Niven and Kim Hunter in A Matter of Life and Death

Today marks the 100th birth anniversary of David Niven, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a troubled retired army officer in Separate Tables. Somewhat surprisingly, I haven't recommended too many of his movies before. And when I recommended The Bishop's Wife, I used a photo of Cary Grant and Loretta Young to illustrate it.

Still, Separate Tables is a quite good ensemble movie, about a group of people in the fading glory of post-war Britain who spend their summer holiday every year in the same seaside hotel, knowing each other in a way, but never really knowing each other. Niven's army officer falls in love with a reserved young woman played by Deborah Kerr (who is really too old for the rold, but that's another story), whose introversion may be a sign of deeper mental instability. She doesn't know Niven's secret -- nobody there really does -- but everybody knows there's some reason to avoid the man. This is all set against the backdrop of a fine cast of other peoplw who have problems of their own: There's Burt Lancaster and Rita Hayworth as ex-lovers; a young Rod Taylor trying to spice up his relationship (with Audrey Dalton); Gladys Cooper as the overbearing mother of Deborah Kerr; Wendy Hiller as the owner of the hotel; and a few I've probably missed.

If you want to see the acting ability of David Niven, Separate Tables isn't a bad place to start. Unfortunately, Amazon claims the DVD is out of print.

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