Tag Archives: David Niven

The Dawn Patrol

Directed by Edmund Goulding
Produced by Jack Warner (executive producer)
Hal B. Wallis (executive producer)
Robert Lord (associate producer)
Written by John Monk Saunders (story)
Seton I. Miller
Dan Totheroh
Starring Errol Flynn
Basil Rathbone
David Niven
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Tony Gaudio
Editing by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date December 24, 1938
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Dawn Patrol is an excellent film about the futility of war and the waste of human life that they cause. Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone are great in this but it is David Niven as Scotty who steals the film in my opinion. Scotty goes from being a happy-go-lucky pilot who thinks that war is an adventure and not really caring about anything. His persona slightly changes after he is recovered  and he briefly confronts the German who shot him down, but it is not until his own brother has enlisted and is sent up with the squadron to tackle the hated Von Richter and his men in what will be certain doomed for an inexperienced rookie that his character changes completely.

The film is not so much about war, although there are some great aerial scenes (many of which were taken from the 1930 Howard Hawks version), but about the way it changes the men who have to fight it.

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The Prisoner Of Zenda

Directed by John Cromwell
W.S. Van Dyke (uncredited)
Produced by David O. Selznick
Written by Anthony Hope (novel)
Edward Rose
Wells Root
John L. Balderston (screenplay)
Donald Ogden Stewart (additional dialogue)
Ben Hecht (uncredited)
Sidney Howard (uncredited)
Starring Ronald Colman
Madeleine Carroll
C. Aubrey Smith
Raymond Massey
Mary Astor
David Niven
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Bert Glennon
Editing by James E. Newcom
Distributed by United Artists
Release date September 2, 1937
Running time 101 minutes
Country United States
Language English

This is a really great adventure film to watch. Probably almost as good as The Adventures Of Robin Hood which came out a year or so layer, although it’s action scenes don’t really come until the climax of the film.

Ronald Coleman stars in the dual role of Rudolf Rassendyll and King Rudolf. His performance from this film was memorably parodied by Don Adams in a couple of Get Smart episodes in the 60s, and I must say that Don was very accurate with his interpretation.

I think that the real stand out performance is that by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as the villainous Duke Rupert of Hentzau. He is very charming and likable but evil at the same time. David Niven is also in this film in an early role, but he really doesn’t do very much.

All in all this is a great film which they don’t make any more.


Around the World in 80 Days

Directed by Michael Anderson
Produced by Kevin McClory, William Cameron Menzies & Michael Todd
Written by: Novel: Jules Verne
Screenplay: James Poe, John Farrow & S.J. Perelman
Starring
David Niven
Mario Moreno “Cantinflas”
Robert Newton
Shirley MacLaine
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Lionel Lindon
Editing by Howard Epstein, Gene Ruggiero & Paul Weatherwax
Distributed by 1956 – 1976: United Artists
1983 – present: Warner Brothers
Release date October 17, 1956
Running time 183 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Around The World In 80 Days is a film that I loved to watch as a kid, despite its very lengthy running time. Watching the film today it doesn’t really hold up as being so special, but it is a fine film nonetheless.

The film follows Jules Verne’s novel with the exception of the scenes in the balloon and the bullfight in Spain, which I gather were done just to give the  fans of the Mexican Cantinflas, who plays Passepartout, something to cheer about. I am not so sure about the choice of Cantinflas to play the ‘worthy fellow’. Verne’s Passepartout is a Parisian, not latino, and unlike the way he is portrayed in the film he is not a skirt chasing comic relief.

I wonder if this could be the reason why I did not enjoy the film this time around. I have recently read and enjoyed the novel and found the film adaptation to be lacking in detail and quite watered down. The film seems to go from one scene to the next without any growth for the characters (Shirley MacLaine’s Aouda is just there and unlike her namesake in the novel adds very little to the plot).  There is really colourful and spectacular scenery and lots of cameos but ultimately while the film is fun, it feels a little empty. It feels very rushed compared to the novel and some vital plotpoints are left out or tweaked. Despite the film being 3 hours long it feels much shorter although some scenes are a little pointless and seemed just designed to show off the special guest star who is playing a cameo rather than furthering the plot. Perhaps if the film spent more time on the plot and of developing the major characters and less on trying to tell the world that a certain guest star is appearing in a particular scene I would have enjoyed the film a little more.


Murder by Death

Directed by Robert Moore
Produced by Ray Stark
Written by Neil Simon
Starring Eileen Brennan
Truman Capote
James Coco
Peter Falk
Alec Guinness
Elsa Lanchester
David Niven
Peter Sellers
Maggie Smith
Nancy Walker
Estelle Winwood
James Cromwell
Richard Narita
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography David M. Walsh
Editing by Margaret Booth & John F. Burnett
Distributed by Columbia
Release date 23 June 1976
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States

Neil Simon’s Murder By Death is a spoof of all those mystery films (and novels) of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. At the time of its release Agatha Christie’s stories were undergoing a revival on the big screen as Murder On The Orient Express (1974) was released at around this time.

Murder By Death has a star-studded cast, with Truman Capote (the writer of Breakfast At Tiffany’s) hosts a murder in which he has invited the world’s greatest detectives, among them Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) who is based on Charlie Chan. Whilst many may consider it to be politicall incorrect for Sellers to be playing a Chinese detective I find it to be OK, as he is parodying the Charlie Chan films from the 30s & 40s in which Warner Oland and Sidney Toler went yellow face to play the Oriental detective.

Also in the cast is David Niven and Maggie Smith whose characters are based on the society detectives from the Thin Man series of movies. James Coco’s Perrier is a spoof of Poirot, Elsa Lanchester’s Miss Marbles is of course based on Miss Marple, while Peter Falk’s Sam Diamond is based on Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon, as portrayed by Humphrey Bogart.

There are a lot of quick fire jokes and if you are a fan of detective films you will love this. Not all the jokes hit the mark but most of them are quite funny.