James David Graham Niven was an English actor and novelist who was popular in Europe and in the United States. He may be best known for his roles as Squadron Leader Peter Carter in A Matter of Life and Death, as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and as Sir Charles Lytton, a.k.a. "the Phantom", in The Pink Panther. He was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Separate Tables.
Born in London, Niven attended Heatherdown Preparatory School and Stowe before gaining a place at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. After Sandhurst he was gazetted a lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry. Having developed an interest in acting, he left the Highland Light Infantry, travelled to Hollywood and had several minor roles in film. He first appeared as an extra in the British film There Goes the Bride. From there, he hired an agent and had several small parts in films from 1933 to 1935, including a non-speaking part in MGM's Mutiny on the Bounty. This brought him to wider attention within the film industry and he was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Niven returned to Britain and rejoined the army, being re-commissioned as a lieutenant.