Former Hollywood star Raquel Welch died on Wednesday at the age of 82, her agent confirmed to AFP. The actress rose to fame in the mid-1960s thanks to movies that made her an international sex symbol. Raquel Welch – who was born Jo-Raquel Tejeda – died after suffering a brief illness, her family told the entertainment outlet TMZ, which was the first to report the news.
Welch starred in more than 30 films and 50 television, but it was her role in the 1966 move One Million Years B.C. that made her famous. In the British movie directed by Don Chaffey, Welch played a cave woman, wearing a tiny beige bikini. Her character became an icon that stole the hearts of moviegoers around the world for decades.
The film launched her to fame. “I look back and I think, ‘Wasn’t I just a very lucky young lady to have stumbled into these crazy circumstances?’” she confessed a few years ago in a conversation with The Los Angeles Times. Before becoming a poster girl, the actress had appeared in a few television shows, but always played minor roles with hardly any dialogue.
She had been in television since 1964, but it wasn’t until One Million Years B.C. in 1966 that Welch was shot to stardom. In that fateful year, Welch also appeared in another move that helped cement her place in Hollywood: Fantastic Voyage, directed by Richard Fleischer. In that film, a scientist shrinks a submarine with a crew on board, which is then injected into his bloodstream to save his life. For decades, sequences from the film were used as an introduction to human anatomy in schools. Welch played the scientist’s assistant.
Welch was born in Chicago in 1940. Her mother was American, but her father was originally from Bolivia. The actress was always proud of her Latino roots. In 2002, she visited Bolivia for the first time, and a received a lifetime achievement award at the IV Ibero-American Film Festival. As well as taking part in official events, she also visited her relatives.
In a 2002 interview with The New York Times, Welch said she was advised to avoid Latino roles so as not to be typecast. She followed this advice for years, but it created an “empty place” in her heart and work, she said. In the final years of her career, the actress rectified this and played several Latina characters in TV shows.
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