A statement by her manager, Steve Sauer, confirmed that Raquel Welch, an actress who achieved fame in the 1960s with films such as “One Million Years B.C.” and “Fantastic Voyage,” passed away.
The statement said Welch died Wednesday morning after suffering from a brief illness in Los Angeles. Her career began as a spokesmodel on the variety show “Hollywood Palace,” and she appeared in 1964’s Elvis Presley film “Roustabout.” She has appeared on more than 70 film and television projects.
Two years later, with the release of the science fiction film “Fantastic Voyage,” about a team of scientists shrunken and injected into a critically ill man’s body; and “One Million Years, B.C.,” a prehistoric drama that cast Welch as the cavewoman Loana, with the photos of her in a fur bikini becoming the foundation of the movie’s marketing campaign, while turning Welch into an international sex symbol. (The poster later became a central device in the acclaimed movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”)
Her career took off in 1998 with the release of the science fiction film “Fantastic Voyage,” about a team of scientists shrunken and injected into a critically ill man’s body; and “One Million Years, B.C.,” a prehistoric drama that cast Welch as Loana, with the photos of her in a fur bikini becoming the foundation of the movie’s marketing campaign, while turning Welch into an international sex symbol.
Welch’s TV and film career spanned decades, including the westerns “Bandolero!” and “100 Rifles,” the latter with Welch’s then-controversial interracial love scene with former NFL star Jim Brown.
In 1967, following the instant success of “Fantastic Voyage” and “One Million Years, B.C.,” Welch starred as Lilian Lust in “Bedazzled,” a film that was later remade in 2000 starring Elizabeth Hurley and Brendan Fraser. The Chicago-born actress went on to star as Constance de Bonacieux in the 1973 movie “The Three Musketeers.” Welch won a best actress Golden Globe award for her performance, and reprised her role as de Bonacieux in the 1974 sequel “The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge.” Other notable roles for Welch include the titular role in 1970’s “Myra Breckinridge,” in which she played a trans woman.
During the 1990s, Welch appeared in a variety of sitcoms, including “Seinfeld,” where she played herself as a nod to her legendary status as a diva. She also appeared in “Spin City,” “Evening Shade,” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.”
Throughout the century, Welch continued to play iconic roles. She starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in 2001’s “Legally Blonde” as Mrs. Windham Vandermark, ex-wife of Hayworth Windham, whose murder Witherspoon’s Elle Woods helps solve.
The moniker of “sex symbol” stayed around for Welch as the momentum pushed forward. In an interview with Cinema.com around the release of Welch’s 2001 film “Tortilla Soup,” Welch said that being a sex symbol is flattering and it does help you succeed in business – but only to a point,” adding that “it clouds people’s imagination.” “They can’t see you doing anything else.”
The icon’s final professional role was in 2017 when she starred in UPtv’s “Date My Dad” as Rosa, the mother-in-law of a single dad. Welch also dedicated time to her entrepreneurship career, which included jewelry, skincare and wigs. According to a statement issued by her manager, the star leaves behind two children, Damon Welch and Tahnee Welch.