Raquel Welch: Dies at 82, A Hollywood Icon of Strength and Beauty

Raquel Welch: Dies at 82, A Hollywood Icon of Strength and Beauty

Raquel Welch, a Golden Globe-winning actress renowned for her glamour and beauty, has died at the age of 82. Welch mesmerized movie goers for decades, from her iconic fur bikini in the 1966 film “One Million Years B.C.” to her fearless gunslinging in several Western films, including “Bandoleer!” and “Hannie Caulder,” both featured on INSP.

Raquel Welch in Hannie Caulder.Welch, born Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940, is known as one of the most beautiful women in cinema history. In 1998, Welch was named by Playboy as one of the 100 sexiest female stars of the 20th century, placing third behind Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.

She was born to a Bolivian father and American mother of English ancestry, who moved the family from Chicago, Illinois to San Diego, California, when Welch was two years old. From a young age, Welch was drawn to the stage, starting out as a ballet dancer. She performed for 10 years and won numerous beauty pageants, including the titles “Miss San Diego” and “Maid of California.”

After graduating high school, she enrolled at San Diego State College on a theater arts scholarship. She focused on acting and starred in several productions. She later dropped out of college to marry her high school boyfriend James Welch.

Welch continued to take drama classes and landed a job as a weather broadcaster for the local TV station KFMB in San Diego. With family and work, her schedule became demanding, and Welch stopped going to her drama classes. During this time, Welch gave birth to her son Damon Welch in 1959 and her daughter Latanne “Tahnee” Welch in 1961.

Raquel Welch in Hannie Caulder.Welch and her husband separated in 1962, and she later moved to Los Angeles, California. Determined to make it in Hollywood, things began moving forward when she met her agent and future husband Patrick Curtis. They strategized on making her a star, capitalizing on her beauty. Welch landed a few small roles in films and television series in 1963 and 1964. In 1965, she got her big beak when 20th Century Fox signed her to a seven-year non-exclusive, five-film deal. Her first film was “Fantastic Voyage” in 1966, where she was cast in a leading role. Welch played a technician, joining a medical team where everyone was turned microscopic and put inside a human body to save its life. The film was a success. But the following 1966 film, “One Million Years B.C.” was the break that launched Welch as a global sex icon, forever cementing her in pop culture history.

Welch starred in dozens of films and television series in the 1960s and 1970s. Notable performances included the 1970 film “Myra Breckinridge.” Welch went on to win a Golden Globe award for best actress in a motion picture comedy or musical for her role in the 1973 film “The Three Musketeers.” She lit up the screen slinging pistols in several Western films, including 1969’s “100 Rifles,” set in Mexico. This film included love scenes with former NFL football star James Brown. She also was cast as the lead in 1971’s aforementioned Western film “Hannie Caulder,” a story about a woman bent on revenge who teams up with a bounty hunter to learn to be a gunfighter.

Welch was married and divorced four times. Her husbands included James Welch (1959 to 1964), producer Patrick Curtis (1967 to 1974), French producer, director, and cinematographer André Weinfeld (1980 to 1990), and restaurant owner Richard Palmer (1999 to 2003). She is survived by her two children.

Raquel Welch in Hannie Caulder.Throughout her life, Welch continued to star in numerous films and on television, performed on Broadway, and in 1994, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her last projects included the 2017 film “How to Be a Latin Lover” and a 2017 appearance on the sitcom “Date My Dad.” Decades have passed since Welch was catapulted to international fame for her iconic animal-skin bikini in “A Million Years B.C.” But like her beauty and career, Welch proved to Hollywood that she was there to stay. And forever timeless.