Books: Rakish Progress

THE MOON'S A BALLOON

by DAVID NIVEN

380 pages. Putnam. $7.95.

David Niven is the great joke Englishman of his generation. Dependable, diffident and apparently dim, he wanders on to the screen like a mildly rattled rabbit, occasionally splutters, "I say, jolly good, what?" and hardly ever gets the girl. Niven has played this P.O. Wodehouse stereotype with such consistent charm that audiences usually assume that Niven is like that too. Not at all. In The Moon's a Balloon, his racy autobiography, Niven offers himself as a tough, ambitious international playboy—a well-preserved specimen of...

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