Raquel Welch

Date Of Birth:
5 September 1940
Date Of Death:
15 February 2023
Place Of Birth:
Chicago, Illinois
Best Known As:
The sex symbol in the 1966 caveman film One Million Years B.C.

Name at birth: Jo Raquel Tejada

Raquel Welch turned her breakthrough role as a prehistoric sex symbol into a five-decade career in the movies. She was born Jo Raquel Tejada in Chicago, to parents of Bolivian and English descent. The family moved to La Jolla, California, where she later won beauty titles as Miss La Jolla and Miss San Diego. While at San Diego State she marred her boyfriend, Joseph Welch, and took his name. She worked as a weather presenter, cocktail waitress, and model before moving to Los Angeles and making her way into the movies. A leading role in the teen-beach movie A Swingin' Summer (1965) brought her to wider attention, and she was a hit in the 1966 sci-fi film Fantastic Voyage. That same year, she had a major visual role (though few lines) in the caveman film One Million Years B.C. A review in The New York Times called the film "a grunt-and-groaner" but said the voluptuous Welch was "a marvelous breathing monument to womankind." A promotional shot of Welch in a primitive bikini became a sensation and was widely sold as a poster. Welch became one of the last great Hollywood va-va-voom sex symbols in the manner of Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida. Over the next decade she was busy in a variety of films: the devilish comedy Bedazzled (1967, with Dudley Moore), the detective film Lady in Cement (1967, with Frank Sinatra), the wild transgender comedy Myra Breckenridge (1970, with old-time sex symbol Mae West), the roller derby drama Kansas City Bomber (1972), the historical romp The Three Musketeers (1973, with Richard Chamberlain) and the TV film The Legend of Walks Far Woman (1982). She was a hit on Broadway in 1981 as Lauren Bacall's replacement in the musical Woman of the Year, and in 1997 in the long-running hit Victor/Victoria. Welch also appeared in Las Vegas, singing and dancing in a one-woman show. Her other films included modest roles in Legally Blonde (2001, with Reese Witherspoon) and How To Be a Latin Lover (2017). At her death, The Hollywood Reporter called her "the almond-eyed sex symbol who turned a doeskin bikini into one of the most iconic cinematic images of the 1960s." Reflecting on her career, Welch once told The Miami Herald: "I refuse to apologize for what I do... I will forever be the sexy lady, just as Julie Andrews will always be Mary Poppins. It follows you wherever you go."
Extra Credit

Raquel Welch was married four times: to James Welch (from 1959 until their divorce in 1964); to film producer Patrick Curtis (from 1967 until their divorce in 1972); to filmmaker André Weinfeld (from 1980 until their divorce in 1990); and to restauranteur Richard Palmer (from 1999 until their divorce in 2004). With James Welch she had two children: a son, Damon (born 1959), and a daughter, Tahnee (born 1961). Tahnee Welch also became an actress, most notably in the gentle sci-fi story Cocoon (1985).

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