The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Moon Was A Balloon

So, I've always been a fan of the actor-writer David Niven. His charming memoirs, The Moon's a Balloon and Bring on the Empty Horses have been favorites of mine since my high school days (essentially, the British Army and Hollywood given the Wodehouse treatment by a genuinely marvelous storyteller), and when, a few years later, I found his first--though much earlier--novel, Once Over Lightly (1951),well, I grabbed it.

I admit that I've always loved Niv's way with an anecdote--like my late, beloved grandfather, he knew that constructing a good yarn is in the details, and in keeping the focus off the teller. Stories about the clever thing you or I have done--let someone else tell 'em. Much better to be the bemused observer, or, even better, the butt of the joke, Niven's stories read so well because they are not about how wonderful David Niven is.

As to the details? Improbability is your friend; pile 'em on:


Niven often was cast in rather weak films; one reviewer once sadly noted: "I sometimes think that David Niven/Should not take all the parts that he's given." So, when his career hit a rough patch, Niven branched out into TV. His Four Star Productions (formed with Dick Powell, Ida Lupino and Charles Boyer) gave Niven a chance to create and star in his own vehicles. The best known of these was The Rogues, of which I had until tonight only heard or read. Then, by sheer blind luck, I stumbled on the first episode, above. It's a 1964-65 caper series about a family of con-men (and one woman), who swindle the deserving rich. The pilot (above) is especially fun, as Walter Matthau plays the improbable mark.

Dated, perhaps. But the fizz is still in the bottle.

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