Jose Luis de Vilallonga

Actor, writer and bon viveur


José Luis de Vilallonga y Cabeza de Vaca, Marqués de Castellbell, Baró* de Segur, Maldá y Maldanell, Grande de España, writer and actor: born Madrid 9 January 1920; married 1945 The Hon Priscilla Scott-Ellis (died 1983; one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1972), 1974 Syliane Stella Morell (one stepson; marriage dissolved 1995), 1999 Begoña Aranguren; died Port d'Andratx, Spain 30 August 2007.

José Luis de Vilallonga, left-wing aristocrat, screen actor and bon viveur, played the dashing Brazilian multi-millionaire who wooed Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. The movie's star, Audrey Hepburn, chose him for the role. It was the one of the high points of an acting career that included more than 70 films. In 1994 his artistic achievements were recognised by the French government, which appointed him to the Légion d'honneur.

Vilallonga also wrote several books of fiction and memoirs, and the authorised biography of King Juan Carlos. Leading a glamorous life that was picked over by Spain's voracious gossip magazines for decades, Vilallonga enjoyed all the pleasures and privileges his high birth afforded. His father was Salvador, Marquis of Castellbell, one of those Spanish aristocrats with the title of Grande or Grandee, and his mother the daughter of the Marquis of Portago.

Educated in France, Vilallonga bred polo ponies and racehorses in Argentina, conquered beautiful women of the international jet set, including Zsa Zsa Gabor's sister, cruised on the finest yachts, rubbed shoulders with the Onassises, the Kennedys and the Rothschilds, and was renowned for his indolent air and lanky elegance.

His early childhood was inauspicious, however. He spent his first two years in a Munich clinic where he overcame an intestinal complaint that he had been born with. He backed Franco's Nationalist rebels in the Civil War in 1936 at the instigation of his austere father, who prodded him to join a Fascist firing squad at 16 "to toughen him up", and where he shot people daily. His experience left him "painfully confused" until, in 1946, the Catalan writer Josep Pla urged him: "Write, young man, write."

He settled in Barcelona and contributed to the magazine Destino and the newspapers El Noticiero Universal and Diario de Barcelona. He launched upon, then abandoned, a diplomatic career, and moved to Britain. His first novel, Las Ramblas terminan en el mar ("The Ramblas end in the sea"), in 1954, displeased the authorities, who banned him from Spain.

He decamped to Paris, returning home only after Franco's death in 1975. In 1958 he made his acting début in Louis Malle's Les Amants (The Lovers). In 1961 he played José da Silva Pereira, the man Holly Golightly planned to marry in Blake Edwards's classic Breakfast at Tiffany's. There followed minor roles in dozens of films, including Federico Fellini's Giulietta degli Spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits).

He interviewed politicians and personalities for Paris-Match, Marie Claire and Vogue, and contributed to Barcelona's daily La Vanguardia; the soft-porn scandal weekly Interviú – with a racy column entitled "Letters from Paris" – and edited Spain's version of Playboy.

Vilallonga dropped his association with the far right and moved towards socialism, but never rejected his family's monarchism. In February 1981, days after a failed military coup in Madrid, he joined the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, and became known as the "Red Marquis". He kept a photo of the Socialist leader Felipe González in his office.

Vilallonga's best-known book, his authorised biography of King Juan Carlos, appeared in 1993 and sold 300,000 copies in six weeks. El Rey ("The King") was based on 27 hours of taped conversations held while the monarch was recovering from a skiing accident. It was an insider's account of Juan Carlos's role in Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy.

He was married three times: first to Priscilla Scott-Ellis, daughter of the 8th Baron Howard de Walden, whom he divorced in 1972; then to the French fashion expert Syliane Stella Morell in 1974. They were divorced in 1995, but Syliane cared for him as his health failed, and was with him when he died. In October 1997 he broke off a relationship with María Vidaurreta, and in 1999 married the journalist Begoña Aranguren, from whom he separated in 2002.

Elizabeth Nash



Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone