Bring on the Empty Horses (1975)

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Bring on the Empty Horses by David Niven is (or was) marketed as an autobiography but that is a bit of a misnomer. It really has very little to do with Niven or his life but is rather a collection of vignettes of those around him throughout his career. So in that respect it is more about his friends and associates than himself, but that does not make it any less good a read.

It is a fairly short book but reads even faster. The reader isn’t going to garner any really unique insights into the world of Hollywood, but the work does serve to show Niven’s cohorts as people, perhaps something that isn’t done all to often. Most often we hear of hijinks, pranks, and other humourous stories. Nothing overtly salacious or gossipy either.

We hear how Niven in his early years as an extra (and worker on a charter fishing boat) met and ultimately befriended the King – Clark Gable. Also his relationships with LB Mayer and Cecil B DeMille- and Niven’s nearness to starring in what would have been DeMille’s last film- telling the story of the Boy Scouts.

We cross paths with on again and off again pal Errol Flynn and Niven shares his views of the deterioration of the star over time as Flynn’s hearty lifestyle took its toll. See Tyrone Power’s nerves prior (and adrenaline rush after) appearing as Santa Claus at a neighborhood children’s Christmas party. Niven passes in between his little quirky stories and tales little bits of analysis on these stars lives and motivations. Unsurprisingly the players in his book had all passed on for the most part prior to its publication in 1975.

Highly recommended – not deep reading but well done. As an added bonus is the undeniable humor and charm you will find sprinkled throughout

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