Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.
American actress Raquel Welch (1940) is one of the icons of the 1960s and 1970s. She first won attention for her role in Fantastic Voyage (1966). In Great Britain, she then made One Million Years B.C. (1966). Although she had only three lines in the film, a poster of Welch in a furry prehistoric bikini became an amazing bestseller and catapulted her to stardom.
Raquel Welch was born Jo Raquel Tejada in 1940 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the first of three children born to Bolivian Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo, an aerospace engineer, and his Irish-American wife Josephine Sarah Hall, who was the daughter of American architect Emery Stanford Hall. At age 14, she won her first beauty title beauty title as Miss Photogenic. She graduated from high school in 1958 and a year later, after becoming pregnant, married her high school sweetheart, James Welch. Seeking an acting career, Welch won a scholarship in drama,took classes at San Diego State College and won several parts in local theatre productions. She got a job as a weather forecaster at KFMB, a local San Diego television station. After her separation from James Welch, she moved with her two children to Dallas, Texas, where she worked as a model for Neiman Marcus and as a cocktail waitress. In 1963, she went to California, where she met former child star and Hollywood agent Patrick Curtis who became her personal and business manager and second husband. They developed a plan to turn Welch into a sex symbol. After small roles in a few films and TV series, she had her first featured role in the beach film A Swingin’ Summer (Robert Sparr, 1965). She landed a seven-year nonexclusive contract at 20th Century Fox and was cast in a leading role in the sci-fi film Fantastic Voyage (Richard Fleischer, 1966) opposite Stephen Boyd. Welch portrayed a member of a medical team that is miniaturized and injected into the body of an injured diplomat with the mission to save his life. The film was a hit and made her a star. Fox Studio loaned her to Hammer Studios in Britain where she starred in One Million Years B.C. (Don Chaffey, 1966). Her only costume was a two-piece deer skin bikini. Gary Brumburgh at MDb: "Tantalizingly wet with her garb clinging to all the right amazonian places, One Million Years B.C. (1966), if nothing else, captured the hearts and libidos of modern men (not to mention their teenage sons) while producing THE most definitive and best-selling pin-up poster of that time. Welch stayed in Europe for the French comedy Le Plus Vieux Métier du monde/The Oldest Profession (Michael Pfleghar a.o., 1967) and the British seven-deadly-sins comedy Bedazzled (Stanley Donen, 1967). She played the deadly sin representing ‘lust’ for the comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. In Britain, she was also the title secret agent in the sexy spy spoof Fathom (Leslie H. Martinson, 1967). In Italy, she starred with Monica Vitti and Claudia Cardinale in Le Fate/The Queens (Mauro Bolognini, 1966) and with Edward G. Robinson and Vittorio de Sica in The Biggest Bundle of Them All (Ken Annakin, 1968). Back in the United States she appeared in the Western Bandolero! (Andrew V. McLaglen, 1968) with James Stewart and Dean Martin, which was followed by the private-eye drama Lady in Cement (Gordon Douglas, 1968) with Frank Sinatra. She caused quite a stir in her ground-breaking sex scenes with black athlete Jim Brown in the Western 100 Rifles (Tom Gries, 1969).
Raquel Welch’s most controversial role came in the comedy Myra Breckinridge (Michael Sarne, 1970), based on Gore Vidal’s 1968 novel. She took the part as the film’s transsexual heroine in an attempt to be taken seriously as an actress. The picture was controversial for its sexual explicitness, but unlike the novel, Myra Breckinridge received little to no critical praise. It is cited in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. Jason Ankeny at AllMovie: "Her situation was unusual; she was certainly a star and a household name, yet few people ever went to see her movies." Welch took a measure of control over her screen persona, producing and starring in Hannie Calder (Burt Kennedy, 1971), the first film in which she carved out a place in movie history portraying strong female characters and breaking the mould of the submissive sex symbol. She altered the image further with Kansas City Bomber (Jerrold Freedman, 1972), insisting on doing her own stunts as good-hearted roller derby star Diane ‘KC’ Carr. She followed that with a series of successful films in Europe that included the thriller Bluebeard (Edward Dmytryk, 1972) starring Richard Burton, the swashbuckler The Three Musketeers (Richard Lester, 1973) – for which she won a Golden Globe, the sequel The Four Musketeers (Richard Lester, 1974) both with Oliver Reed and Michael York, and The Wild Party (James Ivory, 1975). A big hit in Europe was the French action-comedy L’Animal/Animal (Claude Zidi, 1977) starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. Raquel Welch’s unique persona on film made her into one the reigning icons of the 1960s and 70s. Later, she made several television variety specials. In 1980, Welch planned on making a comeback in an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (David S. Ward, 1982), but was fired by the producers a few days into production. The producers said that at 40 years old she was too old to play the character. She was replaced with Debra Winger. Welch sued and collected a $10.8 million settlement. She starred on Broadway in Woman of the Year, receiving praise for following Lauren Bacall in the title role. She also starred in Victor/Victoria, having less success. In 1995, Welch was chosen by Empire Magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History. Her later films include the hit comedy Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic, 2001), starring Reese Witherspoon, and Forget About It (BJ Davis, 2006) with Burt Reynolds. Welch was married four times and is the mother of Damon Welch (1959) and actress Tahnee Welch (1961).
Sources: Jason Ankeny (AllMovie), TCM, Wikipedia and IMDb.
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