Raquel Welch, an actress who rose to fame in the late 1960s and became an icon of her era, has died at 82 years old, her manager told CBS News on Wednesday.
“Raquel Welch, the legendary bombshell actress of film, television and stage, passed away peacefully early this morning after a brief illness,” Welch’s manager, Steven Sauer, wrote in a statement.
Welch first gained prominence for her role in the 1966 adventure film “Fantastic Voyage,” and her career took off with her next film, “One Million Years, B.C.” While she only had a few lines in the movie, she appeared on the film’s poster in a fur bikini — an image that turned her into an international sex symbol virtually overnight.
In a 2012 interview with CBS Los Angeles, Welch addressed the film and the racy artwork, saying that she felt “demeaned” on set but knew the “silly costume” led to her “big break.”
“The lord was watching over me or something, because otherwise, why?,” she said about her rise to stardom. “I mean, there was no reason for me to be on top of a volcano in that outfit shooting a dinosaur movie and when I come back, I’m a star. It’s just nutty.”
In the interview, Welch spoke about being looked down in the industry but figuring out how to make it work for her.
“I was on the ‘One Million Years B.C.’ [set] and I was kind of bored cause so I went to the director, Don Chaffey, and I really been studying the script, so I said, ‘I’ve been thinking.’ He looked at me and he said, ‘Don’t.’ I really did feel demeaned.”
“When I came back and I saw that silly costume had given me my big break, then I thought, ‘Well, OK, then,'” Welch added. “It wasn’t my plan, but if it works.”
Welch would continue to act into the early 2000s, trying her hand at TV, movies and theater and earning a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her role in the 1974 film “The Three Musketeers.” She also performed a successful one-woman show in Las Vegas.
In 1994, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Even before her first film roles, Welch was on TV: According to CBS Los Angeles, her very first on-screen job was as a weather caster at a CBS station in San Diego.
“It was fun and you know, they paid me a whole $7.50 per show. I was so excited, I got to be on television,” she told CBS Los Angeles in 2012.
Welch married four times and had two children, Damon and Tahnee, with her first husband James Welch. She married James Welch in May 1959, but the two divorced in 1964. Even after their separation, she continued using the last name Welch. Both of Welch’s children are still alive and have had their own acting careers.
In 1967, she married producer Patrick Curtis. They divorced in 1972. In 1980, she married producer André Weinfeld, and they divorced in 1990. Finally, she wed Richard Palmer in 1999, but the pair separated in 2003 and later divorced.
“What can I say, I’ve been married four times and I still didn’t get it right. I’m learning,” she joked to CBS Los Angeles.