Kirriemuir-born actor. Following several years in the Highland Light Infantry, Niven resigned his commission and moved the US. His acting career began as an extra in 1935, but he quickly gained a reputation as a suave and debonair gentleman through roles in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Dawn Patrol (1938) and Raffles (1940).
Niven rejoined the British Army at the start of World War II, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in the Commandos. He agreed to act in two propaganda films during the War, The First of the Few (1942) and The Way Ahead (1944) and was honoured by US President Eisenhower on his return to Hollywood.
Niven resumed his Hollywood career, taking roles in almost 100 films in total, including many notable comedies. His later films include Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Separate Tables (1958), for which he won an Academy Award, The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Pink Panther (1964) and The Sea Wolves (1980).
Paradoxically, Niven was regarded by many as the archetypal Englishman.