It didn't take much to make Raquel Welch famous overnight in 1966. As a cave girl in a Stone Age film, she wore skimpy fur rags - that was the starting signal for a long Hollywood career. The actress has died at the age of 82. She died after a "short illness", her management told the dpa news agency on Wednesday.
With small roles, Welch worked his way up the film business in the early 1960s. In the drama "Madame P. and her girls" the dark-haired beauty played a call girl. She was briefly seen as a college student opposite Elvis Presley in the musical film King of Hot Rhythms. Welch didn't have much to say in the Stone Age hit "A Million Years Before Time" (1966). But her tiny costume – a prehistoric bikini made of strategically placed flaps of fur – was all the more important.
In the role of the cave girl Loana, the then 26-year-old became a sex symbol. Magazine titles celebrated her curves, and Life magazine declared her the most photographed woman of the year. This performance lingered on her into old age. But Welch made the best of it. "I'm often asked if I'm tired of talking about this bikini, but to be honest, no," she told The Sunday Post in 2018. "It was a big event in my life, so why not talk about it?" Welch said she received the bikini photo as fan mail almost every day, asking for an autograph.
She was born Jo Raquel Tejada in Chicago in 1940. The Latina daughter of an American mother and a Bolivian father kept her first husband's surname even though the relationship quickly fell apart. At the time of the divorce she was only 24 years old and the mother of two small children. Three more marriages followed. In 1999 she said yes to a much younger restaurateur, and that only went well for a few years.
Professionally, the former curve star continued into old age. In the 2017 comedy How to Be a Latin Lover, Welch played a widowed millionaire who is being wooed by younger men. She later posted a scene photo on Twitter in a skin-tight white dress with a plunging neckline, flanked by Rob Lowe and Eugenio Derbez.
The age of the former ballet dancer could hardly be seen. By her own admission, she didn't have to do much for it. All she does is eat well, lead a healthy lifestyle, exercise a bit, and take care of her skin, Welch said in a 2018 Sunday Post interview.
The actress worked with Hollywood greats such as James Stewart (“Bandolero”), Frank Sinatra (“Lady in Cement”), John Huston (“Myra Breckinridge”) and Burt Reynolds (“Death Comes Softly”). She proved her comedic talent in the film The Three Musketeers (1973). She received the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Actress for this performance.
She looked back on her iconic role as the scantily clad cave girl in "A Million Years Before Time" with humor. Should there ever be a sequel, she hopes for more dialogue than in the first part. At the time, she was only allowed to say three sentences. “This film wasn't about words. No wonder people thought I couldn't act," she joked in an interview with The Sunday Post. She was glad that things had changed in the course of her career. "I would hate to be famous as an iconic actress who never said anything."