Talitha Getty

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Talitha Getty
Wedding of Talitha Pol (Rome, 1966) (cropped).jpg
Talitha Dina Pol

(1940-10-18)18 October 1940
Died11 July 1971(1971-07-11) (aged 30)
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Height169 cm (5 ft 6 12 in)
(m. 1966)

Talitha Dina Getty (née  Pol; 18 October 1940 – 11 July 1971) [1] was a Dutch actress and model who was regarded as a style icon of the late 1960s. She lived much of her adult life in Britain and, in her final years, was closely associated with the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. Her husband was the oil heir and subsequent philanthropist John Paul Getty Jr.


Early life

Talitha Dina Pol was born in Java, then part of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), daughter of the artists Willem Jilts Pol  [ nl ] (1905–88) and Arnoldine Adriana "Adine" Mees (1908–1948). [2]

Her father subsequently married Poppet John (1912–97), daughter of the painter Augustus John (1878–1961), a pivotal figure in the world of Bohemian culture and fashion. She was thus the step-granddaughter of both Augustus John and his muse and second wife, Dorothy "Dorelia" McNeil (1881–1969), who was a fashion icon in the early years of the 20th century. By Ian Fleming's widowed mother, Evelyn Ste Croix Fleming née Rose, Augustus John had a daughter and Talitha's aunt, Amaryllis Fleming (1925–1999), who became a noted cellist.

Pol spent her early years, during the Second World War, with her mother in a Japanese prison camp. Her father was interned in a separate camp and her parents went their own ways after the war, Pol moving to Britain with her mother, who died in 1948 in The Hague. [3]

Pol studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. Writer and journalist Jonathan Meades, who was at RADA several years later, recalled that, after first coming to London in 1964, he saw Pol with her stepmother at Seal House, Holland Park (home of Poppet John's sister, Vivien). Meades thought her "the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen ... I gaped, unable to dissemble my amazement". [4] In 1988, a former Labour Member of the British Parliament Woodrow, Lord Wyatt recalled, with reference to the "success with women" of Anthony, Lord Lambton, former Conservative Government Minister, that

...there was that Talitha Pol who was very pretty and had a little starlet job in Yugoslavia; and he went and stayed at the hotel and sent her huge bunches of flowers about every two hours and showered her with presents. [5]

Another to come under Pol's spell was the dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who first met her at a party in 1965. According to Nureyev's biographer, Julie Kavanagh, the two were in thrall to each other, to the extent that Nureyev "had never felt so erotically stirred by a woman" and told several friends that he wished to marry Pol. [6] In the event, Nureyev was unable to attend a dinner party given by Claus von Bülow, at which he and Pol were to have been seated next to each other, and so von Bülow invited instead John Paul Getty Jr., son of his employer, the oil tycoon Paul Getty. Pol and Getty Jr forged a relationship that led to their marriage in 1966.

Marriage to John Paul Getty

Pol (right) with John Paul Getty Jr. immediately after their wedding at the City Hall in Rome, 10 December 1966. Wedding of John Paul Getty Jr. and Talitha Pol (Rome, 1966).jpg
Pol (right) with John Paul Getty Jr. immediately after their wedding at the City Hall in Rome, 10 December 1966.

Pol became the second wife of John Paul Getty, Jr. on 10 December 1966. She was married in a white miniskirt, trimmed with mink. [7] The Gettys became part of Swinging London's fashionable scene, becoming friends with, among others, singers Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and his girl-friend Marianne Faithfull. Faithfull has recounted her apprehension, through "ingrained agoraphobia", about an invitation to spend five weeks with the Gettys in Morocco ("but for Mick this is an essential part of his life") and how, after splitting from Jagger, she took up with Talitha Getty's lover, Count Jean de Breteuil, a young French aristocrat (1949–1971). Breteuil supplied drugs to musicians such as Jim Morrison of The Doors, Keith Richards, and Marianne Faithfull, who wrote that Breteuil "saw himself as dealer to the stars" [8] [9] [10] and has claimed that he delivered the drugs that accidentally killed Morrison [11] less than two weeks before Talitha's own death in 1971. For his part, Richards recalled that John Paul and Talitha Getty "had the best and finest opium". [12]

Print designer Celia Birtwell, who married designer Ossie Clark, recalled Talitha Getty as one of a number of "beautiful people" who crossed her threshold in the late 1960s, while couturier Yves Saint Laurent likened the Gettys to the title of a 1922 novel by F Scott Fitzgerald as "beautiful and damned". [13] Among other glamorous figures of the Sixties, the fashion designer Michael Rainey, who founded the Hung on You boutique in Chelsea, and his wife Jane Ormsby-Gore, daughter of British ambassador David Ormsby-Gore to the United States during the Kennedy era, "hung out" with the Gettys in Marrakesh between their moving from Gozo to the Welsh Marches. [14]

John Paul Getty, who has been described as "a swinging playboy who drove fast cars, drank heavily, experimented with drugs and squired raunchy starlets", [15] eschewed the family business, Getty Oil, during this period, much to the chagrin of his father. However, in later years, he became a philanthropist and, as a U.S. citizen, received an honorary British knighthood in 1986. His luxury yacht, built in 1927 and renovated in 1994, was the MY Talitha G.

In July 1968, the Gettys had a son, Tara Gabriel Gramophone Galaxy, [16] who became a noted ecological conservationist in Africa, dropped his third and fourth forenames, and took Irish citizenship in 1999. He and his wife Jessica (a chalet maid he met in Verbier) have three children, including a daughter named Talitha. [17]

By 1969, the dissolute lifestyle the Gettys were leading in Italy and Morocco had begun to wear on Talitha, who wished to pursue treatment for heroin and alcohol addiction and return to Britain. Both she and Paul were unfaithful to one another (Paul was having an affair with Victoria Holdsworth, whom he would go on to marry in 1994), and Paul showed no commitment to becoming sober. He agreed to a separation and purchased a house for his wife and son to live in on Cheyne Walk in London. [18] In Early 1970 Talitha was sober and living an active social life in London.

Marrakesh photo

Talitha Getty is probably best remembered for an iconic photograph taken on a roof-top in Marrakesh, Morocco in January 1969 by Patrick Lichfield. [19] With her hooded husband in the background, this image, part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, portrayed her in a crouching pose, wearing a multi-coloured kaftan, white harem pants and white and cream boots.

The look seemed stylishly to typify the hippie fashion of the time and became a model over the years for what, more recently, has been referred to variously as "hippie chic", "boho-chic" and "Talitha Getty chic". [20]

Film career

As an actress, Pol appeared in several films, including Village of Daughters (1962) (as a daughter, Gioia Spartaco); an Edgar Wallace mystery, We Shall See (1964) (as Jirina); The System (1964) (as Helga); Return from the Ashes (1965) (as Claudine, alongside Maximilian Schell, Ingrid Thulin and Samantha Eggar); and Barbarella (1968), a sexually charged science-fiction fantasy starring Jane Fonda, in which she had the minor uncredited role of a girl smoking a hookah pipe.


In the spring of 1971, Talitha Getty asked her husband for a divorce after years of living separately, but Paul Jr. was adamant that he still loved her and pleaded with her to come to Rome for a reconciliation. Her lawyers advised her that divorce proceedings would be easier if Talitha could show that she had attempted to reconcile with Paul, so on 9 July 1971 she flew to Rome. [21] She was found dead on 11 July in the Getty apartment on Piazza d'Aracoeli, allegedly of a heroin overdose. [1] However, her death certificate listed the cause as cardiac arrest, with high levels of alcohol and barbiturates found in her blood. [22] Speculation flared up in the Italian press that Paul's continued heroin usage had caused Talitha to relapse. An autopsy conducted 8 months after her death found traces of heroin in Talitha's system, but this was inconclusive since heroin can persist in the body for many months, and might therefore have pre-dated her sobriety. In January 1973, Italian authorities announced that an inquest would be held into the causes of Talitha's death; they requested that Paul Jr. submit to an interview. Getty was afraid that his continued drug use would lead to arrest and prosecution, so he fled Italy for the UK in February, and never returned. [23]

Talitha Getty died within the same 12-month period as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Edie Sedgwick and, as noted, Jim Morrison, other cultural icons of the 1960s. Her friend Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, with whom she had spent time in Marrakesh, had predeceased Hendrix by a little over a year. [24]

Selected filmography

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  1. 1 2 Anita Pallenberg (26 October 2008). "Talitha Getty: Excerpts from the book "The House of Getty" by Russell Miller". minimadmodmuses.multiply.com. Archived from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  2. Adine Mees at the RKD
  3. Picardie, Justine (13 July 2008). "Talitha Getty: Beautiful and Damned". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 August 2008.
  4. Times Magazine, 11 November 2006
  5. Diary, 15 August 1988: The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt, ed Sarah Curtis (1998), p 614
  6. Julie Kavanagh (2007) Rudolf Nureyev: The Life; Sunday Times, 16 September 2007. Kavanagh surmised that "what [Nureyev] was actually seeing was an exquisite, androgynous reflection of himself".
  7. Hall, Malcolm Macalister (14 June 2001). "John Paul Getty II: A very English billionaire". The Independent. London. Retrieved 12 August 2008.
  8. Robert Greenfield, Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones, DaCapo Press, 2006, pages 55–56
  9. Stephen Davis, Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend, Gotham, 2005, pages 388–389
  10. Faithfull: an Autobiography, 1994, page 195
  11. 'True Confessions' (portrait of Marianne Faithfull by Ebet Roberts) in Mojo, September 2014, page 51.
  12. Keith Richards (2010) Life, page 247
  13. The Times, 16 November 2006
  14. Obituary of Michael Rainey, The Times, 7 February 2017
  15. Compton Miller (1997) Who's Really Who!, p 115
  16. Miller, Russell (1986). The House of Getty. H. Holt. p. 262. ISBN   0-03-003769-7.
  17. The Tatler, May 2011, p 111
  18. John Pearson (1995). Painfully Rich. Harper Collins. p. 147.
  19. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) See also Lichfield (1981) The Most Beautiful Women]
  20. The Guardian, 24 July 2005
  21. John Pearson (1995). Painfully Rich. Harper Collins. p. 150.
  22. (source: source: 1930–, Pearson, John, (1995). Painfully rich : the outrageous fortune and misfortunes of the heirs of J. Paul Getty (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN   0312135793 ).
  23. John Pearson (1995). Painfully Rich. Harper Collins. p. 154-155.
  24. Getty was slightly older than Morrison and Joplin who were later cited as members of the "27 Club" of stars who died at that age. Others included Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones in 1969 and Amy Winehouse in 2011, when the 27 Club received renewed attention in the media. Sedgwick was 28 when she died.