Latest posts, August 2021

It’s been a while since the last post., so there is some catching up to do. I hope you are all keeping well, and that life is getting back to normal.

Gudrun Genberg

First of all is the sad news of the death of Hjördis’ niece Gudrun Genberg, also known as Pia Genberg. Gudrun passed away in 2020. The page about her and twin Maj-iis’ eventful careers as models, dancers, and actresses has been updated: Pia and Mia Genberg.

Pia and Mia Genberg in Las Vegas, 1960
A beautiful still from the 1960 movie “Pepe”, with Maurice Chevalier flanked by Gudrun and Maj-lis Genberg.

Crofting in Röksta

More photos and information have been added to the story of Hjördis’ early years, when her father worked as a crofter in the northern half of Sweden. The family’s house was demolished as early as the 1940s, with even the foundations repurposed. The site has been tracked down and photographed by local Röksta historians and kindly sent by Hans Jonsson: Long winter evenings in the north, 1919-1929.

A small wall at the site of the Genberg family's croft in Rismyra,.
A small wall at the site of the Genberg family’s croft in Rismyra,. Photo: Hans Jonsson.

Rocket to the stars

In early 1950, Hjördis and David Niven were visited at their home in Pacific Palisades for a newby television cameras for a new half-hour series / elongated series of Oldsmobile adverts called ‘Rocket to the Stars’.

Not only has the programme survived, but it can be viewed on YouTube, in excellent quality. Hjördis is shown young, beautiful and charming, as well as excited and very nervous. David is, of course, entirely at ease throughout.

Book corner

Next, a book recommendation: ‘In My Own Fashion’ by Oleg Cassini. Oleg became a leading fashion designer, married movie star Gene Tierney, and was of course Igor Cassini’s brother. (Igor lured Hjördis away from her first marriage).

David pops up a couple of times, with a very direct assessment of his friendship with Errol Flynn, and a heartbreaking description of the party at which Primula Niven met with her tragic accident. ( Primmie Niven, 1918-1946 )

Hjördis is not directly mentioned in the book. Many people and places connected with her life and times in Hollywood are described, and with absolute candour. Oleg observations about life as an outsider in Hollywood add a lot colour to this website.

And finally, for now, a German edition of David’s second best-seller: ‘Bring on the Empty Horses‘, retitled ‘Stars : That Did Not Fall From The sky’.

Hjördis was not a fan of the book. The verdict was: “That’s another pack of lies”, so it’s ironic that a happily smiling Hjördis is displayed on the cover. (The photo looks like it comes from one of Princess Grace’s evening events in Monte Carlo).

Hjördis and David Niven on a German book cover, 1977
Hjördis Niven featured on the cover of the 1977 German edition of ‘Bring On The Empty Horses].

For other book reviews, check out the The Hjördis Niven bookshelf.

Hjördis updates, 2020

Page views on are reflecting that more and more people are at home and online during these strange and stressful days. I hope you are all safe and well.

A couple of years ago I thought that the story of Hjördis’ life was as complete as it was ever going to be. However, information just keeps on showing up, revealing all sorts of new paths to explore.

The first pages of the story…

Salsåker school, 2020

Hans Jonsson has kindly photographed the two school buildings in Salsåker that Hjördis attended before her family moved to Vivstavarv in 1931. The red building on the right catered for the 7-8 year olds. Older children were taught across the road to the timber framed building. It’s quite a surprise that both are still standing…  and it’s downright amazing that the old smithy that used to terrify young Hjördis is also (just about) standing. Though I wouldn’t lean against it.

Sadly the Genbergs’ house in nearby Röksta no longer exists, and may have been pulled down as early as the 1940s.

[Daniel Spencer has commented that is becoming more of a graphic novel than a blog. If it’s heading that way… well, great!]

Moving on to the Genberg-Tersmeden year and a half, details have surfaced about Hjördis’ first marriage, to Carl Gustaf Tersmeden. Hjördis caused  confusion by claiming in 1960 that the wedding took place in Azusa, California. Not so.  The venue was actually Judge RH Lutes’ in-and-out-no-fuss Wedding Chapel, in Yuma, Arizona. Although only a small border town famous for growing winter lettuce, Yuma also became the fashionable venue for Californian stars who didn’t want to wait for their state’s statutory blood test before being granted a license.


When Hjördis arrived home in March 1946, the American fashions that she brought back were of such interest that her new wardrobe was described and illustrated across three pages for Swedish magazine Vårt Hem.

Our website attracts a lot of people most interested in Hjördis because of her modelling days, and the fashions that she was pictured in, so this new page is for them, and also serves as a snapshot of  US fashion (for the well-heeled) between December 1945 and March 1946.

 The last pages of the story…

Much slower to turn up are details of Hjördis’ lost years of alcoholism following David Niven’s death, and her eventual recovery. But there is some new information that helps to tie it all together.

All site updates can be found on the site map page.

Very best wishes for now.

May 2019 at

Regarding recent updates to – well, there are plenty of new details and images, mostly in pages covering the 1930s and 1940s.

This includes new information about Hjordis’ marriage to Carl Gustaf Tersmeden, revealing similarities with her second marriage: about how her husband behaved, and how she reacted. There are plenty of tangents, such as the photo below from Carl Gustaf’s first (short) marriage, to Ingegerd Beck-Friis. Is that a look of doubt on his face, or just a look of doubt on his face…

Carl Gustaf Tersmeden with his first wife on their wedding day.

There is also a new page, concerning Hjordis’ first year as a model, illustrating her astonishingly rapid ascent from nervous would-be modelling student in 1941, to undisputed Queen of Leja in 1942. From mid 1942 until her move on to NK Franska in late 1943 she was the one and only model to feature in Leja’s advertising. Remarkable. (The image below is from May 1942).

Hjördis Genberg, Leja's top model at work in May 1942

Check out the site-map and updates page for other new additions.

Elsewhere, David and Hjordis Niven’s chalet in Chateau D’Oex came up for sale in 2018, for only the second time since Hjordis’ passing. There are a variety of excellent photos of both the exterior and interior. Hjordis’ niece Anette notes that the chalet has been renovated and looks better from when it belonged to her uncle and aunt. Happily, David’s matador paintings in the cellar are still there, as bright and colourful as ever…

The cellar in 2018, with David's paintings still bright and vivid.

And finally, while Hjordis was still residing in the chalet, I wonder if she knew that she was on a indie band’s record sleeve? In 1991, Swedish band Happy Dead Men released vinyl single “Science Fiction”, sporting a 1945 photo of Hjordis on the front cover…

As ever, your comments and contributions are welcome!



Hjördis Niven. Christmas post 2018

Hjördis Genberg, modelling Swedish fashions in 1944
Hjördis Genberg, modelling Swedish fashions in 1944. Photo: Holmén, Erik, Nordiska museets arkiv.


Well, there has been a brief hiatus on, mostly due to my own family matters. However, I am back revisiting Hjördis’ world, and on the look-out for new information about [cliche alert] her life and times.

Recent updates include two slightly tangential pages. Modelling in Sweden focuses more on Hjördis’ fellow mannequin Kim Söderlund, who used her experience to overhaul the profession from the 1950s. You’ve heard of “Twiggy”, well Kim was “The Plank”.

Swedish fashion in the 1940s is really an extension of the Life in wartime Sweden page. Hjördis worked for the Nordiska Kompaniet’s ‘Franska’ (French) department from 1943-1945, and although she didn’t work in occupied France, there was at least one Swedish correspondent in Paris, sending heavily censored fashion news back to Stockholm. Swedish designers also produced their own designs, viewed in the US with some bewilderment:

“Sweden’s fashions styled during the war are middle-road in design, stressing neither American casualness, French sophistication, nor British utilitarianism.” Well, there was a war on…

Miss Hammarström and Miss Hjördis Genberg, modelling in 1944. Photo: Holmén, Erik, Nordiska museets arkiv.
Miss Hammarström and Miss Hjördis Genberg, modelling in 1944. Photo: Holmén, Erik, Nordiska museets arkiv.

The poison pen

Elsewhere, there are updates about Hjördis’ first marriage, to the Swedish millionaire playboy Carl-Gustaf Tersmeden. These include how Igor Cassini used his society gossip column in efforts to break the marriage, starting with a gratuitous piece about Hjördis on 12th February 1947, written after spying her at a party in Miami:

“Mrs Tersmeden is vivid, many-ringed and rather beautiful and used to be a model in Stockholm. When Mr Tersmeden came over here last year on business she followed him to Tucson, Arizona, pounced on him from behind a cactus and married him, not too much against his will, I gathered.”

This lead on to Hjördis being written about for having the best figure on the beach, and a mere two months later being listed as a Swedish celebrity alongside Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman.

As for Carl, not only were his post-Hjordis dalliances listed by Igor, but also by other columnists, and with a slight jab of of poison:

“Carl Tersmeden, the blonde portly man-about-town may wander along Gold Coast smart spots with various and sundry good looking gals, but he’ll never find one as lovely as his ex-wife, the former Hjördis Tersmeden, who is now married to David Niven. Carl knows it too.”

Hjordis Genberg, 1945
Hjordis Genberg modelling for NK Franska, 1945. Photo: Ateljé Uggla AB

Anyway… Christmas!

Mind you, Carl Gustaf’s 1945 Miami Christmas with Hjordis was not the easiest, as she revealed in 1947:

“Christmas Day came. Warm sunshine instead of snow. It was not like home. My heart grew so heavy. I cried all day. I did not care for palm trees, flowers and hot sun on Christmas Day. I longed for the clean white snow, the brisk invigorating air, the sleigh bells, the church bells of Sweden. To comfort me, my husband bought me a little fir-tree, I don’t know where he got it but it did help some.”

What they also needed was some Swedish Julglögg. Twenty years later, David Niven generously shared the recipe to spice up  (or blow up) everyone’s Christmas. And here it is again: David and Hjordis Niven’s Christmas recipes.

Happy Christmas everyone, and the best of luck for 2019!

Whats new on Hjö

Hjordis Genberg in 1945 and 1943Hej!

It’s been a relatively quiet two months on, but there have been a number of additions to the site.

There is one new page since our last post – a look at wartime Sweden focussing on how events and surroundings may have impacted on Hjördis. She claimed that even as child she was keen to travel, so to have been “almost hermetically sealed from the outside world” in Sweden must have been a cause of frustration. Indeed, as soon as the war was over, Hjördis and Carl-Gustaf Tersmeden were off to the Americas in double-quick time.

Back by popular demand

Hjordis Genberg,on the cover of Vart Hem magazine, Sweden. November 1943You’ll notice a very beautiful colourised photo within the wartime Sweden feature, scanned from the cover of Vårt Hem magazine. (Colourised photos usually look fairly terrible, but this one is a work of art).

Hjördis’ first Vårt Hem cover shot (and possibly the earliest from any magazine), shows her dressed in red. Again, beautifully coloured. It was published on the 21st November 1943.  Hjördis was name-checked inside, along with a small bio:

“This week’s cover: Hjördis Genberg is a mannequin and one of the most beautiful in the capital. She is 23 years old, and when she came to Stockholm it was to go to art school. However, her stunning appearance soon led to modelling.”

Hjordis Genberg,on the cover of Vart Hem magazine, Sweden. January 1944The readers’ positive reactions showed just how striking Hjördis’ image was for her Swedish audience, and also how her popularity was exploding.

She made a return appearance on the magazine’s 9th January 1944 cover, due to popular demand.

Her “stunning appearance” led to small decorative parts in Swedish movies. The clip below is of Hjördis as a roulette-table player in Monte Carlo (filmed by  necessity in Stockholm during 1943). The movie is ‘Sjätte Skottet’.

Hjördis’ brief scene in ‘Sjätte Skottet’. In later years she would become familiar with the interior of the real casino at Monte Carlo.

Colour coordination

The beautiful ice lady, 1960‘ page has had a few updates, including David letting rip about his dislike of shopping with Hjördis, while having strong opinions on what she should buy:

“I feel an ass in a woman’s shop. Anyway, once she goes in she’s there for the day. But I do help when she’s choosing what to put on some evenings. There aren’t any colours I particularly dislike. But I am a bit jumpy about blues. And I can’t bear the cliche of blue eyes worn with the obvious blue dress – as bad as redheads who wear green.”

Another updated page from 1960 is ‘Come up and see my etchings‘, where among other things, David gets rather agitated at the thought of women posing. (As if men don’t).

"X and Y " face cream advert , 1937“And I can’t stand the poseur who knows all her best angles – or those dreadful women who never dare smile because it gives them lines around the mouth. Woe betide those glassy-eyed creatures: I feel I want to stick a knife in them, if only to wreck that dreadful fixed look.” [Take a deep breath David… Relaaaxxx…]

Hjördis must have long since known her best angles, but everyone has to start somewhere. Perhaps the most interesting item to turn up recently is a newspaper advert from 1937 for ‘X and Y’ face cream. Sadly the picture quality is very poor, but it looks very much like 17-year-old Hjördis posing for her first modelling job.

Identification parade

Hjordis Genberg, 1945

A recently identified model shot of Hjordis from her modelling days at the Nordiska Kompaniet, 1945.

The Nordiska Museet fashion exhibition is still running in Stockholm, featuring photos of Hjördis in her modelling days. There are now over 90 identified photos of her in their online collection.

The museum are keen to identify other models from the 1940s and 1950s. Maybe you can help.

From Hjördis’ contemporaries, they have now been able to label photos of her friend and mentor Kim Andersson / Söderlund, and have built Swedish language Wiki pages for both Kim and Hjördis.

What’s new and what’s coming up

Hjordis Niven in the living room of the Nivens' chalet, 1994
Hjordis Niven in the living room of the Nivens’ chalet, 1994

There have been a lot of small but interesting additions to over the last two months, mostly involving life in England.

18th February 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of Primmie Niven’s birth. To mark it there is now a page devoted to her life, accompanied by a number of ‘new’ photos that do not appear in ‘The Moon’s a Balloon’ or David’s biographies. The most recent addition is a touching obituary written by one of her friends to The Times newspaper in July 1946:

“The death of ‘Prim’ Niven came as a great sorrow to her many friends, for she was one of the gentlest and sweetest of characters. She had a great sense of humour and rare capacity for enjoying life., but wherever she might be seen – in the hunting field, in the ballroom, in the WAAF during the war – she always had a sweet, rather shy smile in her blue eyes which seemed to be watching some vision that only she could see. It was, perhaps, her quiet thoughtfulness which gave that impression. She seemed so at peace with the world and everyone, appearing at the same time to be amused by it all. Her delicate beauty brought joy to all who knew her and wherever she went she radiated happiness.”

1948 David Niven wedding
David and Hjordis, 14th January 1948. Ever wondered why there are so many different photos of them leaving the registry office? This shot explains it. The happy couple are looking up at workmen on ladders who were shouting “Good old Bonnie Prince Charlie” at David.

.Another anniversary passed on 14th January 2018: the 70th anniversary of the marriage of David Niven and Hjördis Genberg-Tersmeden at South Kensington registry office. There is a gallery of Niven-related wedding photos (mostly for anyone curious to see who looked like who), including the remarkable shot above that shows just how intense the media interest was outside the long since demolished registry office.
One of the more mysterious periods of the Nivens’ marriage is 1950-1951,when David decided to take up permanent residence in England (or so he said to the waiting press when he and Hjördis arrived in Southampton in March 1950). After a short time living in Randolph Churchill’s London residence, Hjördis was actually sent to stay in the countryside with Primmie’s parents before ending up at the newly purchased (or perhaps just rented?..) Wilcot Manor House. What was once one page  – Lady of the manor, 1950 – has now been expanded to two – There was always a chap with white gloves, 1950-1951.

Hjordis Genberg in '13 Stolar', 1945
Hjordis Genberg in ’13 Stolar’, 1945

Coming soon, still, is a look at wartime Sweden, and how it would have affected Hjordis’ life between 1939-1945. Which brings me on to Hjördis’ modelling years…

The Nordiska Museet in Stockholm opened a fashion exhibition on 10th November 2017, which features photos of Hjördis Genberg in digital installations. With the help of Hjördis’ niece Anette, we’ve been able to identify Hjördis in over 80 photos from her modelling days at NK. (These can be viewed at

The museum is keen to have other models identified from their photo collections. If you can help, please get in touch – there is a comment section under each photograph on their website.

Another valuable resource is the newly refurbished Swedish film database, available in both Swedish and English. All four of Hjördis’ small (as in very small) Swedish movie appearance are listed, along with promo shots, including a fascinating photo from ’13 Stolar’ – a movie which no longer exists in its complete form. The three models (as listed in the credits) are Hjördis Genberg, Margareta Berglund, and Marjo Bergman.

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