LOS ANGELES – Raquel Welch, the US actress who became an international sex symbol after appearing in a deerskin bikini in “One Million Years BC,” died Wednesday, her manager said. She was 82.
Welch “passed away peacefully” after “a brief illness,” her manager said in an emailed statement to AFP, without providing further details.
The Golden Globe winner starred in more than 30 films — including “Fantastic Voyage” and “The Three Musketeers” — as well as some 50 television series in a career spanning five decades.
But she would be forever associated with “One Million Years BC.” The fantasy movie’s poster of Welch’s bikini-clad cavewoman became part of cinema history.
In her 2010 autobiography “Beyond the Cleavage,” Welch admitted she had struggled to avoid being typecast, writing that her acting career became “eclipsed by this bigger-than-life sex symbol.”
But in a rare 2018 interview, Welch said she was at peace with being forever associated with her prehistoric bombshell heroine.
“I’m often asked if I get sick of talking about that bikini but the truth is, I don’t,” she told The Sunday Post.
“It was a major event in my life so why not talk about it?”
Welch, born Jo Raquel Tejada in 1940, grew up in California, and won several beauty titles in her teens.
She launched her acting career with a string of walk-on parts in minor films, including the 1964 musical feature “Roustabout” starring Elvis Presley.
Her break came when she was picked by the 20th Century Fox studio to star in the 1966 science fiction film “Fantastic Voyage”.
Her leading role in “One Million Years BC” came later that same year, cementing her global sex symbol status, despite the film itself receiving mediocre reviews.
She went on to star in Hollywood’s first interracial sex scene with Jim Brown in “100 Rifles,” and as a transgender heroine in the explicit “Myra Breckinridge” (1970).
Welch won the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy or musical for “The Three Musketeers” (1973), in which she plays the queen’s dressmaker.
While filming “Cannery Row” in 1982, Welch was fired for insisting on doing her hair and make-up at home. She sued MGM studios for breach of contract, ultimately winning a $15 million settlement.
– ‘Glamorous beyond belief’ –
A lover of yoga, Welch later launched herself into the business of wellbeing, publishing her “Total Beauty and Fitness” program in 1984.
Having long hidden her Latino origins, she took on Hispanic roles in the “American Family” series on PBS in 2002 and “Tortilla Soup” in 2001.
She also appeared opposite Reese Witherspoon in hit 2001 romantic comedy “Legally Blonde.”
“So sad to hear about Raquel Welch’s passing. I loved working with her on ‘Legally Blonde,'” tweeted Witherspoon on Wednesday.
“She was elegant, professional and glamorous beyond belief. Simply stunning.
“May all her angels carry her home. Sending love to her family and her many fans.”
In later years, Welch continued to act in occasional films, such as 2017’s ensemble comedy “How to be a Latin Lover” with Rob Lowe and Salma Hayek.
She also developed her own line of wigs, hair pieces and hair extensions.
Welch married four times. She divorced her fourth husband Richard Palmer — who was 14 years her junior — in 2008.
Welch is survived by her son Damon Welch and her daughter Tahnee Welch.
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