Gone but never forgotten — Raquel Welch was born Jo-Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940 in Chicago and raised in La Jolla, California. The Hollywood star first garnered attention for her role in Fantastic Voyage, after which she signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox. They lent her contract to the British studio Hammer Film Productions, for whom she made One Million Years B.C. where despite having a grand total of three lines, her emergence from the sea in a skimpy, furry bikini in the film propelled her to international sex symbol status throughout the 1960s and ‘70s.
Raquel Welch had a career that spanned 50 years. She starred in more than 30 films and 50 TV shows.
Continuing in the sex symbol status, she played Lust for the comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their film Bedazzled in 1967 and playing a secret agent in the sexy spy spoof Fathom that same year. Other high-profile roles in Bandolero! (1968), 100 Rifles (1969), and in 1968, she starred opposite Frank Sinatra in detective film Lady in Cement, Hannie Caulder (1971), Kansas City Bomber (1972) and The Last of Sheila (1973).
Her curves and beauty captured pop culture attention, with Playboy crowning her the “most desired woman” of the ‘70s, despite never being completely naked in the magazine. In 2013, she graced the No. 2 spot on Men’s Health’s “Hottest Women of All Time” list. In the film The Shawshank Redemption, a poster of Raquel covers an escape tunnel — along with posters for Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.
Though she would appear in exploitative films, she also surprised many in the industry with fine performances, including in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers, which earned her a Golden Globe, and opposite James Coco in Wild Party. She was also nominated for a Globe in 1988 for the TV movie Right to Die. She played herself and mocked divas in an episode of Seinfeld, memorably attacking Elaine and rattling Kramer.
In addition to acting, Raquel was a singer and dancer. She surprised many critics — and won positive reviews — when she starred in the 1981 musical WOMAN OF THE YEAR on Broadway, replacing a vacationing Lauren Bacall. She returned to the Great White Way in 1997 in VICTOR/VICTORIA.
Married and divorced four times, Raquel Welch is survived by two children, Damon Welch and Tahnee Welch. Raquel died at home on 15 February 2023, aged 82. The cause of her death has been disclosed as Alzheimer’s with cardiac arrest as a contributory factor.