Hollywood icon, American actress Raquel Welch dies aged 82

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American actress Raquel Welch, Hollywood film star of the 60s and 70s, has died at the age of 82, according to her manager.

Raquel Welch, Hollywood fantasy of the 60s and 70s, consecrated as the most beautiful woman in the world for her role as a cave naiad in an animal skin bikini in “One million years before Jesus Christ”, will never have had great roles. The actress died on Wednesday morning February 15 at the age of 82 after a brief illness, her manager said in a statement sent to AFP.

After the disappearance of Marylin Monroe in 1962, the young amazon with the auburn mane resumed in 1966 the status of universal sex symbol 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 when 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 the rabbit skin bikini, with this impossible hourglass figure! They were all in love with this kind of super woman coming straight from the Amazon”.

“Miss beauty among beauties”

Jo-Raquel Tejada, born in Chicago on September 5, 1940 to 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” prize, the first of a long series including “Miss forms”, “Miss beauty among beauties”, “Miss lady of California”.

After a brief marriage to James Welch, a high school dunce with whom she has two children under 20, she moves to Dallas and lives odd jobs as a waitress and a model for suggestive posters. 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.

The Times covers it in November 1969

After twenty extra roles, she was spotted by 20th Century Fox who chose her in 1966 as the headliner for Richard Fleicher’s “The Fantastic Journey”. The science fiction film 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” (“Beyond the neckline”). “You imagine me on the poster with a kid under my arm and the other in a stroller? That breaks the myth a bit, doesn’t it?”

In 1967, she married her pygmalion in Paris, wearing 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.

$15 million for wrongful breach of contract

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, unpublished erotic scenes with black actor Jim Brown in “The Hundred Guns” and his transgender role in the parody “Myra Breckinridge” (1970) did not help him to change his 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 abusive breach of contract. The case does not give him good publicity. A yoga enthusiast, she launched herself, like Jane Fonda, into the wellness business.

After having hidden her Latin origins for a long time, the dashing sexagenarian then assumes her roots, embodying Hispanic roles in “American Family” (2002) or “Tortilla soup” (2001). At 68, she divorced her fourth husband, 14 years her junior.