LOS ANGELES – When Raquel Welch donned a deerskin bikini for a 1966 caveman screen epic, she became one of the hottest sex symbols of her time, a role she never felt able to escape.
The film was mediocre, but the poster for “One Million Years BC” went round the world, taking her with it and making both of them an indelible part of cinema history.
“With the release of that famous movie poster, in one fell swoop, everything in my life changed and everything about the real me was swept away,” Welch wrote in her 2010 autobiography “Beyond the Cleavage.”
With an auburn mane and lauded for her famous figure, Welch took over from the late Marilyn Monroe to become the universal sex goddess of the 1960s and 1970s.
The New York Times described her in 1967 as “a marvelous breathing monument to womankind” while Playboy magazine said she was “the most desired woman of the 1970s.”
– Walk-on parts –
Welch, who died Wednesday after a brief illness, was born Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940 in Chicago to a Bolivian aeronautical engineer and his American wife.
Growing up in California, she took ballet lessons and won the first of several teen beauty titles at the age of 14.
She married her high school sweetheart, James Welch, before she was 20, having two children with him before they divorced in 1964.
Welch then moved to Dallas, taking on jobs as a model and barmaid. Seeking stardom, she returned to Los Angeles in 1963, where she met her agent and next husband Patrick Curtis.
Her never-illustrious acting career started with a string of walk-on parts in minor films, including the 1964 musical feature “Roustabout” starring Elvis Presley.
But a break came when she was picked by the 20th Century Fox studio to star in the 1966 science fiction film, “Fantastic Voyage”.
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