Actress Raquel Welch dies at 82
Raquel Welch, Hollywood fantasy of the 60s-70s, consecrated as the most beautiful woman in the world for her role as a cave naiad in a bikini of animal skin in “A million years before Jesus Christ” , however, will never have had major roles.
The actress died Wednesday morning at the age of 82 after a brief illness, her manager said in a statement sent to the AFP.
After the death of Marylin Monroe in 1962, the young amazon with the auburn mane regained the status of universal sex symbol in 1966, sweeping away the idea that only a blonde could embody the quintessence of femininity.
But her fame was based on a misunderstanding: she was only asked to undress while Raquel Welch always wanted to prove that she had talent.
“I really had the feeling that people were totally laughing at me, they were only interested in the other woman: the one astride, in a rabbit skin bikini, with this impossible wasp waist! They were all in love with this kind of superwoman who came straight from the Amazon.”
Jo-Raquel Tejada, born in Chicago on September 5 1940 of a Bolivian aeronautical engineer and an American, grew up in California where she learned classical dance. At 14, the young Latin American won the “Miss Photogenic” award, the first of a long series including “Miss Forms”, “Miss Beauty Amongst Beauties”, “Miss Lady of California”.
After a brief marriage to James Welch, a high school dunce with whom she had two children under the age of 20, she moved to Dallas and lived off odd jobs as a waitress and a suggestive poster model. In search of stardom, she returned to Los Angeles in 1963 where she met Patrick Curtis, an enterprising advertising agent.
He launches the career of this young woman with maddening lines and convinces her to keep the name of Welch to hide her Latino origins, then little to Hollywood taste. She starts in mediocre films, the most notable of them “The handyman” where she appears alongside Elvis Presley.
After twenty roles of figuration, she is spotted by 20th Century Fox, which chose her in 1966 as the headliner for Richard Fleicher's “The Fantastic Journey”. The sci-fi movie makes her take off.
That same year, she played a prehistoric savage in “One Million Years Before Jesus Christ”, a poor, almost silent film whose only poster will mark the history of cinema. Raquel poses there in the famous animal skin bikini whose shreds seem to have been torn off by a ferocious animal or a hungry caveman.
“People saw me as a sex symbol, but in reality I was a single mother with two young children!” she exclaimed half a century later in her autobiography “Beyond the cleavage” (“Au- beyond the neckline”). “Can you imagine me on the poster with one kid under my arm and the other in a stroller? That breaks the myth a bit, doesn't it?»
15 million from MGM
In 1967, she married her pygmalion in Paris, dressed in a sensational white mesh mini dress. Rich, famous, she then led the way: sumptuous villa in Beverly Hills, black marble swimming pool, Rolls-Royce. The Times covered it in November 1969.
She went on to film in the 70s, but remained confined to her status as a beauty in all the genres in which she ventured. Westerns (“Bandolero”, “A colt for three bastards”), detective films (“La femme en cement”) or even comedies (“L'animal” by Claude Zidi with Belmondo).
In 1969, previously unseen erotic scenes with black actor Jim Brown in “The Hundred Guns” and his role as a transgender in the parody “Myra Breckinridge” (1970) did not do not help to improve its image. However, she won a Golden Globe for “The Three Musketeers” in 1973.
Fired by MGM on the set of “Rue de la sardine” in 1982, she attacked the studio and obtained 15 million dollars for wrongful breach of contract. The affair did not give her good publicity.
A yoga fan, she launched herself, like Jane Fonda, into the wellness business.
After having hidden her Latin origins, the dashing sexagenarian then assumes her roots embodying roles of Hispanics in “American Family” (2002) or “Tortilla soup” (2001).
At 68, she divorced her fourth husband 14 years his junior.