James David Graham Niven (1 March 1910 – 29 July 1983), known as David Niven, was a English actor and novelist, best known for his roles as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and Sir Charles Litton, a.k.a. "the Phantom," in The Pink Panther. He was awarded the 1958 Academy Award for Best Actor in Separate Tables.
David Niven was born in London, England. He was the son of William Edward Graham Niven (1878–1915) and Henrietta Julia Degacher. He was named David for his birth on Saint David's Day. Niven often claimed that he was born in Kirriemuir, in the county of Angus in 1909, but after his death, his birth certificate showed this was not true.
Henrietta was of French and British ancestry. She was born in Wales, the daughter of army officer William Degacher and Julia Caroline, daughter of Lieutenant General James Webber Smith. Her father, born William Hitchcock, had assumed his mother's maiden name of Degacher in 1874.
William Niven, David Niven's legal father, was of Scottish descent; his paternal grandfather, David Graham Niven, (1811–1884) was from St. Martins, a village in Perthshire. William served in the Berkshire Yeomanry in the First World War and was killed during the Gallipoli Campaign on 21 August 1915. He was buried in Green Hill Cemetery, Turkey in the Special Memorial Section in Plot F. 10.
David's mother Henrietta then married Sir Thomas Comyn-Platt. Graham Lord, in NIV: The Authorized Biography of David Niven, suggested that Comyn-Platt and Mrs. Niven had been having an affair for some time before her husband's death, and that Sir Thomas may well have been David Niven's biological father, a supposition which has some support from her children. Michael Munn, in his 2009 biography of Niven, claimed that Niven himself confirmed Comyn-Platt was his father in an interview taped in 1982. A reviewer of Lord's book stated that Lord's photographic evidence showing a strong physical resemblance between Niven and Comyn-Platt "would appear to confirm these theories, though photographs can often be misleading." Niven's son, David Niven Junior, commenting on Munn's book in the Daily Mail said, "Why, if Michael Munn was such a good friend, did he never introduce him to us? [...] Everyone featured in these stories is conveniently dead, so we can't ask them to verify them.". Other commentators have queried the authenticity of Munn's alleged interviews with Niven after Munn claimed that the disputed, taped interviews no longer exist because they were mangled by his tape recorder.
David Niven had three older siblings: Margaret Joyce ("Joyce"; born in Geneva 5 January 1900); Henry Degacher ("Max"; born in Buckland, Faringdon, Berkshire 29 June 1902), and Grizel Rosemary Graham (born in Belgrave, London 28 November 1906).