Talitha Dina Pol was born in Java, then part of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), daughter of the artists Willem Jilts Pol (1905–88) and Arnoldine Adriana "Adine" Mees (1908–1948).
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.
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". 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.
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. 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 Bülow invited instead John Paul Getty, son of his employer, the oil tycoon Paul Getty. Pol and Getty Jr forged a relationship that led to their marriage in 1966.
Pol became the second wife of John Paul Getty, Jr. on 10 December 1966. She was married in a white mini-skirt, trimmed with mink. 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 rock stars such as Jim Morrison of The Doors, Keith Richards, and Marianne Faithfull, who wrote that Breteuil "saw himself as dealer to the stars" and has claimed that he delivered the drugs that accidentally killed Morrison 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".
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". 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 the British ambassador to the USA during the Kennedy era, "hung out" with the Gettys in Marrakesh between their moving from Gozo to the Welsh Marches.
John Paul Getty, who has been described as "a swinging playboy who drove fast cars, drank heavily, experimented with drugs and squired raunchy starlets", 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 US 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, 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) had three children, including a daughter named Talitha.
Talitha Getty is probably best remembered for an iconic photograph taken on a roof-top in Marrakesh, Morocco in January 1969 by Patrick Lichfield (1939–2005). With her hooded husband in the background, this image (now part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London) portrayed her in a slightly anxious, 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 even "Talitha Getty chic". Although, in her lifetime, Talitha Getty, who was only thirty when she died, was not much known to a wider public, fashion gurus of the late 20th and early 21st centuries have often written of her and Marrakesh (a major destination for hippies in the late 1960s, as illustrated by the 1969 song, "Marrakesh Express" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) as virtually synonymous.
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 pipe.
Talitha Getty died of a heroin overdose in Rome, Italy on 14 July 1971 while attempting to patch up her marriage. She died within the same twelve-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.
His wife's death marked the end of John Paul Getty's period of hedonism and its circumstances initially drove him to England. He remained reclusive for several years, being described by the critic Kenneth Tynan as the "Hermit Millionaire". His rehabilitation was assisted by a growing passion for cricket, which was nurtured by, among others, Mick Jagger and a former England captain and future MCC President, Gubby Allen, whom he met in the London Clinic during a long period of illness. In 1985, when Getty was receiving extended treatment for phlebitis, a Sunday Times journalist reported "an almost visible pain" in his life and that he still mourned Talitha. Getty remarked that "the pain does not evaporate".Village of Daughters (1962)
The Comedy Man (1964)
The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre (1 episode, 1964)
The System (1964)
Return from the Ashes (1965)
Barbarella (Uncredited, 1968)