Ian Fleming recommended him for the role of James Bond for Dr. No (1962), but producer Albert R. Broccoli thought that Niven was too old.
After Great Britain declared war in 1939, he was one of the first actors to go back and join the army. Although Niven had a reputation for telling good old stories over and over again, he was totally silent about his war experience. He said once: "I will, however, tell you just one thing about the war, my first story and my last. I was asked by some American friends to search out the grave of their son near Bastogne. I found it where they told me I would, but it was among 27,000 others, and I told myself that here, Niven, were 27,000 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut after the war."
After he left the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst he was asked to write down his three preferred regiments, he wrote 'anything but the HLI' (Highland Light Infantry) he was inevitably commissioned into the HLI, later to transferred to the Rifle Brigade
As a joke he agreed to celebrate the wedding of two gorillas and to be the godfather of their first son.
At His funeral,the largest wreath was from the porters at Heathrow Airport. There was a card which read: "To the finest Gentlemen who ever walked these halls. He made a porter feel like a King".
Became friends with Clark Gable during the 1930s. While Gable was serving in England during World War II, Gable used to stay over at the Niven's cottage and spend quality time with Niven's wife and children. When, a few years later, Niven's wife died tragically, Gable did his best to comfort Niven. Niven said "Clark was drawing on his own awful experience (his wife Carole Lombard 's tragic death) to steer me through mine.
Close friend of Michael Trubshawe. They served together in a Highland Regiment in Malta in the 1930s and Trubshawe figures prominently in Niven's biography, "The Moon's A Balloon". Niven states: "He swiftly made a name for himself in television and one of his earliest screen appearances was in The Guns of Navarone - a lovely bonus for me." Niven does not mention Trubshawe's earlier appearance in Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). Trubshawe was Niven's best man on the occasion of his two marriages, and also godfather to Niven's son David, Jr.
Contrary to a popular myth, he was not a cousin of actor Patrick Macnee. According to Macnee, in Sheridan Morley's 1985 biography "The Other Side of the Moon,", his elder brother Max and Patrick's mother were friends and Max was described as an "uncle," as opposed to a cousin. However, there was no blood link.
Died the same day as his The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and Stairway to Heaven (1946) co-star Raymond Massey.
During his final illness his weight dropped from 230 lbs to just 110 lbs.
During his war service, his batman was Pvt. Peter Ustinov.
Ex-father-in-law of Barbara Niven.
Father, with Primula Rollo, of David Niven Jr. and Jamie Niven; and the father, with Hjordis, of two adopted daughters, Kristina (adopted 1960) and Fiona (adopted 1962).
Has a grandson Ryan (born in 1998), from daughter Fiona. Grandson Michael (born in 1990) from daughter Kristina. Grandaughters Fernanda and Eugenie from son Jamie.
He knew his wife, Primula Rollo, 17 days before he married her. He knew his second wife 10 days before marrying her.
He often used to say he was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland. It was only after his birth certificate was checked after his death that this was found to be incorrect. David thought it sounded more romantic. He was born in London, England.
He once asked Greta Garbo whilst under a picnic table (!), why she quit making movies. She answered, "I had made enough faces.".
His appearance was the inspiration for the physical likeness of the "Green Lantern" Comics' character Sinestro.
His first wife, Primmie, died tragically while attending a dinner at fellow actor Tyrone Power 's house. After dinner while playing hide and seek, Primmie opened what she thought was a closet door but instead tumbled down the basement stairs and onto the concrete floor. She died shortly after.
His Scottish father was Lieutenant William Niven, who died at Gallipoli on 21st August 1915, aged 25, while serving with the Berkshire Yeomanry. He was reported missing until 1917. He was a landowner and left a widow Henrietta (a three quarter Frenchwoman) and two sons, Max and David and two daughters, Joyce and Grizel.