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



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
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

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game