John Paul Getty III

This page was last edited on 16 March 2018, at 03:14.

John Paul Getty III (/ˈɡɛti/; 4 November 1956 (some sources say 5 November)[2] – 5 February 2011),[3] also known as Paul Getty, was the eldest of the four children of John Paul Getty Jr. and Abigail (née Harris), and the grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. His son is actor Balthazar Getty.

John Paul Getty III
John Paul Getty III
Getty in 2003
Born 4 November 1956
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.[1]
Died 5 February 2011 (aged 54)
Wormsley, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Nationality American (birth)
Irish (acquired)
Known for Being kidnapped
Spouse(s) Gisela Martine Getty (née Schmidt; m. 1974; div. 1993)[2]
Children Balthazar Getty
Parent(s) John Paul Getty Jr.
Abigail Harris
Relatives Mark Getty (brother)
J. Paul Getty (paternal grandfather)
Ann Rork Light (paternal grandmother)
George Getty (paternal great-grandfather)
Sam E. Rork (paternal great-grandfather)
Gordon Getty (paternal uncle)

Early life

Getty spent most of his childhood in Rome, Italy, while his father headed the Italian division for the Getty family's oil business. His parents divorced in 1964 when he was 8 years old, and his father married again in 1966 to model and actress Talitha Pol. They adopted a hippie lifestyle and spent much time in Britain and Morocco during the 1960s.[4] Getty remained in Rome living with his mother Gail and attended St. George's British International School. In early 1972, he was expelled from St. George's after having painted 6ft-high wording offensive to the school's headmaster in a hallway of the school one afternoon. Later that year, his stepmother died of a heroin overdose in Rome.[5] While his father moved back to the United Kingdom, he remained in Italy, where he lived a bohemian life, frequented nightclubs, and took part in left-wing demonstrations. Endowed with a considerable artistic inclination, he reportedly earned a living making jewelry, selling paintings and appearing as an extra in movies.[6]


At 3 a.m. on 10 July 1973, Getty, then age 16, was kidnapped in the Piazza Farnese in Rome.[2] He was blindfolded, transported, and imprisoned in a mountain hideout in the southern Italian region of Calabria in the tiny fishing hamlet of Seminara.[7] A ransom note was issued, demanding $17 million (equivalent to $94 million in 2017[8]) in exchange for his safe return. When that message arrived, some family members suspected the kidnapping was merely a ploy by young Getty, as he had frequently joked about staging his own kidnapping to extract money from his wealthy grandfather.

A second demand was received, but delayed by an Italian postal strike.[9]

John Paul Getty Jr. asked his father, J. Paul Getty, for the money, but was refused as Getty feared that if he were to pay the ransom, his 13 other grandchildren could also be kidnapped.[6]

In November 1973, an envelope containing a lock of red hair, a human ear, and a note was delivered to a daily newspaper with a threat of further mutilation of Paul unless $3.2 million (equivalent to $17.6 million in 2017[8]) was paid. The letter read, "This is Paul's first ear. If within ten days the family still believes that this is a joke mounted by him, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits."[10]

At this point, the reluctant Getty Sr. negotiated a deal to get his grandson back for about $2.9 million (equivalent to $16 million in 2017[8]). Getty Sr. paid $2.2 million—the maximum amount that was tax deductible—and he loaned the remainder to his son, who was responsible for repaying the sum at 4% interest.[11]

Getty III was found alive in a petrol station of Lauria, in the province of Potenza, on 15 December 1973, shortly after the ransom was paid.[12] At his mother's suggestion, he called his grandfather to thank him for paying the ransom, but J. Paul Getty refused to come to the phone.[13]

Nine of the kidnappers were apprehended, including a carpenter, a hospital orderly, an ex-con, and an olive-oil dealer from Calabria, as well as high-ranking members of the 'Ndrangheta—a Mafia organization in CalabriaGirolamo Piromalli and Saverio Mammoliti.[12] Two were convicted and sent to prison; the others, including the 'Ndrangheta bosses, were acquitted for lack of evidence. Most of the ransom money was never recovered.[11][14] In 1977, Getty had an operation to rebuild the ear that had been cut off by his kidnappers.[2]

Later life

In 1974, Getty married German national Gisela Martine Zacher (née Schmidt), who was five months pregnant. He had known her and her twin sister Jutta since before his kidnapping. Getty was 18 years old when his son, Balthazar, was born in 1975. The couple divorced in 1993.[2]

Getty acted in some European films: he played supporting parts in Raúl Ruiz' The Territory and in Wim Wenders's The State of Things, which was shot at the same time as Ruiz's film, using part of its cast and crew.[15] He and his wife lived for a time in New York City, where they consorted with Andy Warhol's art crowd.[13]

Permanently affected by his kidnapping, Getty suffered from drug and alcohol addiction during the years that followed.[13] In 1981, he drank a Valium, methadone, and alcohol cocktail which caused liver failure and a stroke, leaving him quadriplegic, partially blind and unable to speak.[16][17] Afterwards, he was taken care of by his mother. He eventually sued his father for $28,000 a month to cover his medical needs.[13] He never fully recovered and remained severely handicapped for the rest of his life. By 1987, however, he was able to regain some degree of autonomy. He could again visit concerts and cinema, and was even able to ski when strapped to a metal frame.[15]

In 1999, Getty, along with several other members of his family, became citizens of Ireland in return for investments in that country of approximately £1 million each, under a law which has since been repealed.[18]


On 5 February 2011, aged 54, Getty died at Wormsley, Buckinghamshire, following a long illness. He had been in poor health since his 1981 drug overdose.[3] He was survived by his son and his mother.

In popular culture

A. J. Quinnell used Getty's kidnapping as one piece of inspiration for his book Man on Fire.[19]

The 1995 book Painfully Rich: the Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson includes significant content on Getty's kidnapping ordeal.[20] The book was adapted to the 2017 film All the Money in the World, directed by Ridley Scott. John Paul Getty III is played by Charlie Plummer and, as a young boy, by Charlie Shotwell.[21]

The kidnapping is also dramatized in the 2018 television series Trust, directed by Danny Boyle, with Harris Dickinson as John Paul Getty III.[22]

Aerosmith's song "Last Child" has the lyric "Sweathog ready to make a silk purse/From a J. Paul Getty and his ear/With her face in a beer."


  1. ^ "Obituary: John Paul Getty III, grandson of oil tycoon, who had ear cut off in kidnapping". The Scotsman. 8 February 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Getty obituary". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Finally He Is Out Of Pain: Tragic Oil Heir, John Paul Getty III, Dies at 54, After Being Paralyzed For 30 years". 7 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Style » Talitha Getty: The Myth and the Muse". Dossier Journal. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  5. ^ Sanchez, Tony (1996). Up and Down with the Rolling Stones: The Inside Story. Da Capo Press. p. 242. ISBN 0-306-80711-4.
  6. ^ a b J. Paul Getty III, 54, Dies; Had Ear Cut Off by Captors, The New York Times, 7 February 2011
  7. ^ Patricia Gucci (10 May 2016). In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir. Crown/Archetype. ISBN 978-0-8041-3894-9.
  8. ^ a b c Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  9. ^ "Sir Paul Getty". The Daily Telegraph. 17 April 2003. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  10. ^ Washington Post, report on Getty's death, 7 February 2011
  11. ^ a b J. Paul Getty III, 54, Dies; Had Ear Cut Off by Captors, The New York Times, 7 February 2011
  12. ^ a b Catching the Kidnappers, Time, 28 January 1974
  13. ^ a b c d J. Paul Getty III, 54, Dies; Had Ear Cut Off by Captors, The New York Times, 7 February 2011
  14. ^ "J. Paul Getty III dies at 54; scion of oil dynasty", Los Angeles Times, 7 February 2011
  15. ^ a b John Paul Getty III obituary, The Telegraph, 7 February 2011
  16. ^ J. Paul Getty III, 54, Dies; Had Ear Cut Off by Captors The New York Times, February 7, 2011.
  17. ^ "Obituary for John Paul Getty II", BBC News, 17 April 2003
  18. ^ "Jean Paul Getty III Dead; 5 Facts on the Oil Heir and Father of Actor Balthazar Getty". In News Today. 8 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  19. ^ Davies, Paul. Ed: Nancy Billias. "Be not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good': The Theology of Evil in Man on Fire." Posted in Producing and Promoting Evil. Rodopi, 2010. 221. Retrieved on 30 March 2011. ISBN 90-420-2939-0, ISBN 978-90-420-2939-2.
  20. ^ 1930-, Pearson, John, (1995). Painfully rich : the outrageous fortune and misfortunes of the heirs of J. Paul Getty (1st ed ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312135793. OCLC 32820398.
  21. ^ Scott, Ridley (2017-12-22), All the Money in the World, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, Michelle Williams, retrieved 2017-11-09
  22. ^ Holloway, Daniel (May 15, 2017). "FX's 'Trust' Casts Harris Dickinson as J. Paul Getty III". Variety. Retrieved May 15, 2017.

External links

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.