Hjördis Niven. Christmas post 2021

(Is it Christmas already??)

Hjordis Niven and family, 1969
The Nivens in Switzerland in the late sixties.

I hope you are all keeping well. There is plenty of new material to share on hjordisniven.com in the coming weeks. I’ll preview some in this post.

Yachting with Hjördis’ first husband, Carl-Gustaf Tersmeden

Colonel von Schinken, air attache of the Swedish embassies in the US and Canada, sailing with Carl-Gustaf Tersemeden, August 1949.

In 1949, several years before Carl-Gustaf was skewered in the US press as a “stout Swedish socialite” he was gushed over in Newsday as a (deep breath) :

“Dashing young Swedish paper pulp merchant prince temporarily at liberty after shedding his second wife Hgordes Jenberg,” [which sounds like someone trying to say Hjördis Genberg after testing David Niven’s Christmas Glögg recipe] under the headline “Debutantes’ hearts flutter over wealthy viking yachting off Long Island.”

Carl-Gustaf had his 60 ft yacht ‘Symfoni’ transported across the Atlantic on an American freighter, and spent his summer sailing the US north-east coast. Later in the year Igor Cassini unashamedly reported C-G ‘s arrival in Palm Beach to chase the ladies.

After his divorce from Hjördis, Carl-Gustaf spent six months a year in the US, selling wood pulp to US newspaper publishers. Ironically, some of it was used to tattle on his playboy lifetsyle, and ultimately just to call him fat and sad. There must have been some degree of jealousy.

Hjördis gets noticed, part one

David and Hjördis Niven, 1958

One often repeated statement about Hjördis’ marriage to David Niven is that she was often upset about not being noticed when she was with him.

“When a beautiful woman walks into a room she should immediately get the attention that is her prerogative,” David explained. “If she is alongside someone whose face happens to be well-known she can get pushed aside.”

But, occasionally the reverse was true. This snippet coms from the London Evening Standard in May 1950:

“A photographer recognised Mrs. David Niven in the stalls at the Vaudeville last night. After he had taken her picture he wrote down her name, turned to her husband who was with her and asked ‘And what is your name, please?’

Niven said: ‘It’s still me.'”

Hjördis gets noticed, part two

The Nivens around-the-world holiday in 1958 has been used as a prime example of Hjördis’ irritation about David drawing attention, which he admitted was a source of pride:

“After 25 years in Hollywood movies, I found it impossible to walk unrecognised down back streets of Bangkok or Calcutta. In Istanbul, thinking we could spend a quiet afternoon at a soccer game, we were spotted, rated a loudspeaker announcement, applause and autograph seekers. My head was high and my chest out until early the next morning.”

The next morning was a rare win for Hjördis. She repeated the story more than once, but this was David’s take:

“We had a blowout on the way to the airport and the taxi had no spare. So there we were miles from anywhere at 7am.”

“Then came an army to rescue. A convoy of trucks appeared, and a jeep disengaged itself to offer assistance. Hjördis, who was wearing a bright red Chinese dress complete with a slit up the side, was snuggled in beside the colonel. I was unceremoniously stuffed into the cook’s truck with all the baggage.”

“On arrival at the airport there was much (really too much) kissing of Hjördis’ hand by the officers while I was instructed to unload our baggage. The came the final blow – Hjördis was asked for HER autograph! Oh well!”

And finally, talking of autographs

Cheque written by David Niven to his children’s nanny Evelyn Walne. November 1959. https://www.memorabilia-uk.co.uk/p/david-niven

The best way to land a genuine David Niven autograph these days is through the sale of his used cheques. Although David’s examples are usually cashed, including one made out to Hjördis “for house-keeping”, cheque-writing could be profitably used by celebrities.

In ‘The Garner Files: A Memoir’, James Garner mentioned that: “Gary Cooper wrote checks for everything – gasoline, cigarettes, groceries, meals in restaurants – because he knew most of them wouldn’t be cashed. Coop figured he might as well get paid for signing his name.” Clever.

The day after David and Hjordis’ wedding reception in London, a hopeful attempt to land autographs went sadly wrong:

“A telegraph boy crossed the road in Buckingham Place last night, and rang the bell at the house where David Niven was holding his wedding reception.”

“To a manservant who opened the door the boy presented a sheet of paper. It came from the typists looking on from near-by windows. They hoped Mr.Niven and his guests would fill the sheet with autographs.”

“It back it came with one signature – the manservant’s. Apparently he thought he was signing a receipt for a telegram.” Way too subtle.

As ever, I’ll round this post off with the Nivens’ favourite Swedish recipes, including a Christmas drink that sounds like the sort of concotion usually put-together in prison radiators: David and Hjördis Niven’s Christmas recipes, 1967

2 thoughts on “Hjördis Niven. Christmas post 2021”

  1. I’ve heard this story about celebs signing cheques for small items knowing they would be likely never cashed before, about one or two pre-War “tight fisted” British music hall stars certainly. I wonder who first came up with this wheeze? I do know one musician who got a royalty cheque from their record label which was so small an amount they framed it rather than pay it in!


    1. One of David Niven’s cheques for $0.77 was cashed by a store in Honolulu, so I guess it didn’t always work. Only funny if he hoped it wouldn’t be cashed!


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