James David Graham Niven, known as David Niven, was a British actor and novelist, best known for his roles as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and Sir Charles Lytton, 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 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, 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.