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



News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
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

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

School Administrator

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Long term SIMS School Administr...

Nursery assistants required across Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week