Raquel Welch, Hollywood’s sex symbol, Golden Globe winner, dies at 82

February 16, 2023
Raquel Welch, who became an icon and sex symbol thanks to films such as 'One Million Years B.C.' and 'Three Musketeers', died on Wednesday after a brief illness

Raquel Welch, the actor who became an icon and sex symbol thanks to films such as ‘One Million Years B.C.’ and ‘Three Musketeers’, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles after a brief illness, her manager confirmed to ‘Variety’. She was 82 and is survived by son Damon and daughter Tahnee.

She came onto the movie scene in 1966 with the sci-fi film ‘Fantastic Voyage’ and the prehistoric adventure ‘One Million Years B.C.’, the latter of which established Welch as a sex symbol.

The actor, notes ‘Variety’, went on to appear in the controversial adaptation of Gore Vidal’s ‘Myra Beckrinridge’, ‘Kansas City Bomber’ and Richard Lester’s delightful romps ‘The Three Musketeers’ (1973), for which she won a Golden Globe, and ‘The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge’ (1974).

She was one of the first women to play the lead role – not the romantic interest – in a Western, 1971 revenge tale ‘Hannie Caulder’ – an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’ (2003), according to the director.

Welch also showed some grit in the 1972 roller derby movie ‘Kansas City Bomber’. ‘Variety’ had then said the film “provides a gutsy, sensitive and comprehensive look at the barbaric world of roller derby. … Raquel Welch, who did a lot of her own skating, is most credible as the beauteous but tough star for whom team owner Kevin McCarthy has big plans. At the same time, Welch is torn between her professional life and her two fatherless children.”

Besides film and television dramas, Welch appeared on Broadway twice, replacing Lauren Bacall in the starring role of Tess Harding in the hit musical ‘Woman of the Year’ in the early 1980s and replacing Julie Andrews in ‘Victor/Victoria’ in 1997.

Welch was last seen on the big screen in 2001 – in ‘Legally Blonde’, starring Reese Witherspoon, and in Maria Rispoll’s comedy drama ‘Tortilla Soup’, a remake of Ang Lee’s ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’, where she played the romantic interest for Hector Elizondo.

Jo Raquel Tejada was born in Chicago to a mother who could trace her ancestry to the Mayflower and a father from Bolivia. The family moved to San Diego, where the young girl took ballet and acting lessons; as a teen she won beauty contests. Welch also did some professional modelling.

She made her screen debut as one of the call girls in Russel Rouse’s film ‘A House Is Not a Home’ (1964). That year she also made an uncredited appearance in the Elvis Presley movie ‘Roustabout’.

Apart from her acting career, Welch became a successful businesswoman over time, launching ‘Raquel’s Total Beauty and Fitness Program’ in the mid-1980s and more recently developing a line of wigs and hair extensions, as well as skin care products.

Welch was married four times, the first to publicist and agent James Welch, her high school sweetheart, from 1959-64; the second to director-producer Patrick Curtis from 1967-72; the third to producer, director and journalist Andre Weinfeld from 1980-90; and the fourth to Richard Palmer.

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