Raquel Welch, a veteran actress who rose to fame in the 1960s in the films “One Million Years B.C.” and “Fantastic Voyage,” has died, according to a statement provided by her manager, Steve Sauer.
She was 82.
Welch died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles after a “brief illness,” the statement said.
The actress, with more than 70 film and television credits, got her start as a spokesmodel on a variety show, “Hollywood Palace,” and had a small role in the Elvis Presley film “Roustabout” in 1964.
Her career took off two years later, with the release of the science fiction film “Fantastic Voyage,” about a team of scientists shrunken and injected into a critically ill man’s body; and “One Million Years, B.C.,” a prehistoric drama that cast Welch as the cavewoman Loana, with the photos of her in a fur bikini becoming the foundation of the movie’s marketing campaign, while turning Welch into an international sex symbol. (The poster later became a central device in the acclaimed movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”)
Welch’s career in TV and film spanned decades. A number of starring roles for Welch followed in the late 1960s, including the westerns “Bandolero!” and “100 Rifles,” the latter notable for her then-controversial interracial love scene with former football star Jim Brown.
In 1967, following the instant success of “Fantastic Voyage” and “One Million Years, B.C.,” Welch starred as Lilian Lust in “Bedazzled,” a film that was later remade in 2000 starring Elizabeth Hurley and Brendan Fraser.
The Chicago-born actress went on to star as Constance de Bonacieux in the 1973 movie “The Three Musketeers.” Welch won a best actress Golden Globe award for her performance, and reprised her role as de Bonacieux in the 1974 sequel “The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge.”
Other notable roles for Welch include the titular role in 1970’s “Myra Breckinridge,” in which she played a trans actress.
In the 90s, Welch appeared in various sitcoms, including “Seinfeld,” where she played herself as a nod to the legendary diva she had become. Welch also appeared in “Spin City,” as well as “Evening Shade” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.”
Welch’s iconic roles continued into the turn of the century. The Hollywood legend appeared in 2001’s “Legally Blonde” alongside Reese Witherspoon and portrayed Mrs. Windham Vandermark, ex-wife of the late Hayworth Windham, whose murder Witherspoon’s Elle Woods helps solve.
As the momentum pushed forth for Welch, the “sex symbol” moniker also continued to stick around.
“Part of being a sex symbol is very flattering and it does help you get success in the business – but only to a point,” Welch said in an interview with Cinema.com around the release of her 2001 film “Tortilla Soup,” adding that “it does cloud people’s imagination.”
“They just can’t see you being able to do anything else.”
Welch’s final professional credit came in 2017, where the icon starred as Rosa, the mother-in-law of a single dad, in UPtv’s “Date My Dad.”
Welch also dedicated time to a career as an entrepreneur, which included jewelry, skincare and wig lines.
The star leaves behind her two children, son Damon Welch and her daughter Tahnee Welch, according to her manager’s statement.