Raquel Welch, ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ ‘One Million Years B.C.’ Actor, Dead at 82

Raquel Welch, the Golden Globe-winning actor whose onscreen persona as a sizzling sex symbol helped define cinema’s grittiest era, died Wednesday morning, according to multiple reports. She was 82.

The death was first reported by TMZ, with family members telling the outlet that Welch had died following a brief, unspecified illness. Welch’s representatives later confirmed the news elsewhere, including to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

Before bursting into the international spotlight as a bombshell of a scientist’s assistant in 1966’s Fantastic Voyage, Welch was a single mother, bouncing from San Diego to Dallas and then Los Angeles with her two children after separating from her high school sweetheart. Once in California, the aspiring actor landed small roles in films like the Elvis Presley vehicle Roustabout, and larger parts in 1965’s beach bonanza A Swingin’ Summer. Her work got her noticed by the suits over at 20th Century Fox, who handed her a seven-year contract.

After Fantastic Voyage made a splash, Fox loaned Welch to a British studio producing One Million Years B.C., a movie in which dinosaurs and humans lived alongside one another. Wearing what promotional materials dubbed “mankind’s first bikini,” Welch wore little and said less in the film, but was a sensation nonetheless. In its review, The New York Times called her a “marvelous breathing monument to womankind.”

Welch would spend much of the rest of her career grappling with the status she’d suddenly accrued. “When you have the sex-symbol image, you can’t hate it, you can’t love it, it’s just there, like Mount Rushmore,” she told the Times in 1982. “And it won’t go away… The heat of your bikini days is spent like a rocket, and usually that’s it. They try to cut you off at the knees if you want to be anything else.”

Some of her roles won her acclaim outside of the box that had taken shape around her. Welch won a Golden Globe for her comic turn as the lovelorn Constance Bonacieux in 1973’s The Three Musketeers. (She also earned a second nomination for the television drama Right to Die.) Still, she was named one of the “100 Sexiest Stars in Film History” by Empire magazine in 1995; earned the No. 3 spot on Playboy’s “100 Sexiest Stars of the Twentieth Century” list in 1998; and took a place on Time’s “Top Ten Bikinis in Pop Culture” ranking in 2011.

Born Jo-Raquel Tejeda in 1940 to a Bolivian father and an American mother, Welch fought hard with producers to keep her first name as she carved out a space in Hollywood, and leaned into her Latino heritage later in her career, taking markedly Hispanic roles on PBS’ American Family in 2002 and Tortilla Soup in 2001. Her final film role was in 2017’s How to Be a Latin Lover.

“I think language is very important to your identity and not having that… I sometimes feel isolated from that part of me,” Welch told the Associated Press in 2016. “Yet I still feel very, very Hispanic. The essence of who I am is a Latina.”

She was married four times, and is survived by her children, Damon and Tahnee Welch.

Source link

Leave a Comment