CHARLOTTE, NC, November 12, 2017. – It doesn’t happen often, but a week with no drastic ALS developments is like a three-week vacation. Wiith no clinics, no infusions and no meetings the relief is most welcome. During this respite, I learned that In Europe Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) have named it “David Niven’s Disease”, after the popular British actor passed away from ALS complications in 1983.
I was aware that Niven had succumbed to ALS, but with the added time this week, I was able to delve into his story even further.
David Niven and ALS
Born in 1910, the always dignified gentlemanly actor began to experience fatigue, muscle weakness, and a softness in his voice in 1980 at the age of 70.
While appearing on television talk shows the following year, Niven’s close associates began noticing his inability to communicate clearly in his speech. Some thought he had been drinking, while others thought he may have had a stroke.
Niven felt his failings on the shooting schedule for a film he was working on titled “Better Late Than Never.” Later that year, he was diagnosed with ALS or “motor neuron disease” (MND), as it called in the United Kingdom.
By the end of 1981, Niven made his final appearance in Hollywood as host of an American Film Institute tribute to Fred Astaire.
Using an alias to avoid publicity, In February 1983, Niven spent 10 days for a digestive problem. Upon his release, he returned to his chalet in Chateau-d’OEx, Switzerland near Gstaad, but his condition declined.
Refusing to return to the hospital, David Niven died at his home on July 29, 1983. His final resting place is in the Chateau-d’OEx cemetery in the lush rolling countryside of Switzerland.
David Niven remembered
In October of 1983, there was a Thanksgiving memorial service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields at Trafalgar Square, London d. Counted among the attendees in the congregation of 1,200 were Prince Michael of Kent, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, Sir John Mills, Sir Richard Attenborough, Trevor Howard, Sir David Frost, Joanna Lumley, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Lord Olivier.
In his biography of Niven, Graham Lord wrote,
“the biggest wreath, worthy of a Mafia Godfather’s funeral, was delivered from the porters at London’s Heathrow Airport, along with a card that read: ‘To the finest gentleman who ever walked through these halls. He made a porter feel like a king.'”
Two years after his death, in 1985, Niven was the honoree on a series of British postage stamps. The stamps were designed to commemorate “British Film Year” and included actors like Sir Charles Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Sellers and Vivien Leigh.
David Niven Films
Always the ultimate gentleman, David Niven won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1958 for his performance in “Separate Tables.”
Though he appeared in more than 100 films and television shows during his career, including several of Blake Edwards “Pink Panther” films, Niven is probably best remembered for his role as Phileas Fogg in the 1956 Michael Todd classic “Around the World in 80 Days.”
David Niven Family Life
Niven also wrote four books during his life, of which two were novels.
In 1940, while on military leave, Niven met his first wife, Primula “Primmie” Susan Rolla. After a whirlwind romance, they married and had two children before moving to the US in 1945.
Six weeks later, while playing Hide & Seek, Primmie suffered an accidental fall in Beverly Hills. She fractured her skull and died at the age of 28.
Niven later remarried a divorced Swedish model in 1948.
David Niven was an actor’s actor. He was a gentleman as well as a gentle-man.
ALS stole his life, but not before he gave much to the world in return.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up