José Luis de Vilallonga, 9th Marquess of Castellbell

José Luis de Vilallonga y Cabeza de Vaca, 9th Marquess of Castellbell, GE (29 January 1920 – 30 August 2007) was a Spanish nobleman, actor and author.

The Marquess of Castellbell

Vilallonga and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961
José Luis de Vilallonga y Cabeza de Vaca

(1920-01-29)29 January 1920
Died30 August 2007(2007-08-30) (aged 87)
Resting placePoblenou Cemetery
OccupationAuthor, aristocrat and actor
Years active19581997
The Hon. Esyllt-Priscilla Scott-Ellis
(m. 1945; div. 1972)

Syliane Stella Morell
(m. 1974; div. 1995)

(m. 19992007)
Partner(s)Michèle Girardon (1958–1972)

He was born in Madrid to an important Catalan noble family, son of Salvador de Vilallonga y Cárcer, 8th Marquess of Castellbell amongst other titles, and María del Carmen Cabeza de Vaca y Carvajal, daughter of the 9th Marquess of Portago. On his paternal side, he was descended from viceroy Amat, whereas on his maternal side, some of Vilallonga's ancestors were Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Pedro Téllez-Girón, Ferrante Gonzaga II and Christopher Columbus.[1] Both Alfonso de Portago and Vicente Sartorius were his first cousins.[2]

Growing up, he spent the first two years of his life at a clinic in Munich, to recover from an intestinal condition with which he was born. He studied at the Jesuits of Barcelona and in other schools from which he was often expelled for misbehaviour. When the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931, he went into exile with his parents to Biarritz for six months but eventually returned. Her grandmother had a powerful influence on his education, which was very broad and advanced for the time. The Spanish Civil War broke out while Vilallonga was studying at École Saint-Elme, a Dominican school in Arcachon. He immediately returned to Spain and entered the ranks of the rebel faction as a provisional second lieutenant of Requetés; he recounted that he was part of a firing squad as young as 16 years old.

After pursuing a four-year long career in diplomacy, he married his first wife Esyylt Priscilla Scott-Ellis, a daughter of Thomas Scott-Ellis, 8th Baron Howard de Walden, while he was working as an attaché in London. He then became interested in journalism and literature, his first works being at Diario de Barcelona. Vilallonga also worked for foreign magazines including Paris Match, as he was banned from returning to Spain following the Francoist regime's censoreship of a few of his articles. His actor career came through as a result of his good connections with many prominent figures of the artistic world, landing roles in The Lovers (1958), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) and Darling (1965). In Spain, he was noted for his performance in the second and third films of Berlanga's "Nacional" trilogy, namely Patrimonio Nacional (1981) and Nacional III (1982).

After a brief step through politics that included toying with the Socialist Party of Spain, Vilallonga wrote the first ever and only authorised biography of king Juan Carlos I, titled El Rey and published in 1993.[3]

His peculiar character, described as "a mixture of aristocratic arrogance, self-confidence and unconcern",[4] brought him frequent enmities with other public figures. He was known to be a multifaceted, charming, elegant and playboy-like figure.[5][6] At his death in 2007, Vilallonga was referred to by several newspapers as "the last dandy".[7][8]

Early life

Born in Madrid, Spain, de Vilallonga – who also went by the surname of Cabeza de Vaca – was a Grandee of Spain and part of the nobility, holding the title of Marquess of Castellbell. Upon the declaration in 1931 of Spain's Second Republic his family went into exile in Biarritz, France, but returned six months later. When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, de Vilallonga was at a French school, but his father ordered him back to Spain to fight on the side of the Nationalists. By his mother's family side he was a first cousin of both the Marquess of Portago and the Marquess of Mariño, being all from the maternal side of the Cabeza de Vaca family. His father was an enthusiastic supporter of the rebel side, and at age 16 de Vilallonga was allegedly a serving member of a Nationalist execution platoon.[9]


After World War II, de Vilallonga became increasingly disenchanted with Francoist Spain, and he left the Spanish diplomatic service to live abroad. In 1954 his first novel, The Ramblas End in the Sea, was published, causing the Spanish military government censor to issue a ban on his reentry to the country. He then obtained work as a foreign correspondent for the national press agency EFE and for the magazines Paris Match, Marie Claire and Vogue. His social connections and ability to relate gossip among Europe's jet set enabled him to regularly sell magazine articles, in addition to authoring four autobiographical tell-all books about his numerous love affairs.[9] After recording taped interviews with Spain's King Juan Carlos, he wrote an official biography of the King that was published in 1993.

Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, de Vilallonga continued his acting career. Though he refused a Hollywood acting contract, a highlight in his acting career was a role as "José da Silva Pereira," the dashing Brazilian multimillionaire whom Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn) planned to marry in Blake Edwards' classic movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). He also appeared as the debonair Prince Cesare Della Romita, who becomes Julie Christie's second husband in Darling (1965).

Personal life

Vilallonga was married three times,[10] to The Honourable Esyllt-Priscilla Scott-Ellis (daughter of Thomas Scott-Ellis, 8th Baron Howard de Walden) (b. 1916 d. 1983) (married 1945, divorced 1972), Syliane Stella Morell (married 1974, divorced 1995), and since 1999 to journalist Begoña Aranguren. A spendthrift, he soon disposed of much of his first wife's inheritance and property. He had frequent affairs, including a relationship with the French actress Michèle Girardon and Hungarian actress Magda Gabor,[11] both while still legally married to Essylt-Priscilla Scott-Ellis. Girardon eventually committed suicide in 1975 after de Vilallonga ended their relationship to marry Syliane Stella Morell. Though courts twice found him liable for alimony to his first wife Essylt-Priscilla Scott-Ellis, de Vilallonga never paid the judgment, an act which reduced her to poverty for the remainder of her life. His third wife Begoña Aranguren also became disenchanted with de Vilallonga, and the couple separated in 2002. Aranguren wrote a scathing portrayal of the aging socialite and their marriage in 2004.[9]


De Vilallonga died at his home on the island of Mallorca on 30 August 2007 from natural causes.[12][13] He is survived by children John and Carmen from his first marriage and an adopted son Fabricio. King Juan Carlos expressed his sadness at Vilallonga's death.


Year Title Role Notes
1958The LoversRaoul Florès
1960L'Ennemi dans l'ombreGeorges Dandieu
1961Vive Henri IV, vive l'amourL'envoyé d'Espagne
1961Les Mauvais CoupsPrévieux
1961The Nina B. AffairKurt
1961Breakfast at Tiffany'sJosé da Silva Pereira, a Brazilian millionaire.
1962Tales of ParisLouis(segment "Sophie")
1962Cléo from 5 to 7The Lover
1962Le Rendez-vous de minuitBob
1962The Law of MenLe prêtre
1963Any Number Can WinM. Grimp
1963Don't Tempt the DevilPaul Dupré
1964Behold a Pale HorseHorse Dealer
1964The Magnificent CuckoldThe Club President
1965The Three FacesRodolph(segment "Gli amanti celebri")
1965The SuckerUncredited
1965DarlingPrince Cesare della Romita
1965Juliet of the SpiritsGiorgio's friend
1966A Maiden for a PrinceAlessandro de Medici
1966Tecnica di un omicidioDr. Goldstein / Frank Secchy
1967L'homme qui trahit la mafiaMario Vérona
1970The Naughty CheerleaderMr. Epstein
1971Sapho ou la Fureur d'aimerMaurice Duran-Vior
1971The BurglarsTasco
1972Le ViagerLe général qui décore MartinetUncredited
1973The AngelsBernard
1975Trop c'est tropLe photographe
1976The Good and the Bad
1976Chi dice donna dice donnaLouis(segment "Donne d'affari")
1980Speed CrossMeyer
1980Voltati EugenioTristano
1980Une femme au bout de la nuitXavier, le mari
1981National HeritageÁlvaro
1981PatriziaLord James Cook
1981Dos y dos, cincoJuanjo's Father
1982Nacional IIIÁlvaro
1983ScarabPresidente frances
1985Tex and the Lord of the DeepDr. Warton
1988La DiputadaFederico
1989Blood and SandDon José
1992The Long WinterConde de Santbenet


  • The Man of Blood (1961), ISBN 2-02-000961-7
  • Allegro Barbaro (1969), ISBN 2-02-001077-1
  • Fiesta (1995), ISBN 2-221-08213-3
  • Solo, Editions (2000), ISBN 2-226-00331-2