Raquel Welch, a cinema icon, has died aged 82

Raquel Welch, an American actress and a model, died after a brief illness on 15 February. She was 82 years old. 

raquel welch

The news was confirmed by Welch’s manager, as reported by the BBC

Welch achieved superstardom after appearing in One Million Years BC. While her role didn’t have many lines, her outfit, consisting of a bikini made of deerskin, made her memorable. 

Her image was heavily used for promotion, thrusting Welch into a sex-symbol status. While she never outrightly rejected her sexualised image, Welch always seemed surprised and a little uncomfortable with it, once stating she “was not brought up to be a sex symbol, nor is it in my nature to be one”.

raquel welch one million years bc

One Millions Years BC. Credit: Warner-Pathé Distributors

Welch’s public image was in stark contrast to the image of movie stars of the 1950s, such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Her image perfectly encapsulated the changing times as women’s roles, both on- and off-screen, were going through major changes. 

In her career that spanned over 50 years, Welch appeared in over 30 films and 50 TV shows. She won a Golden Globe in 1974 for The Three Musketeers and was nominated for another for the TV drama Right To Die in 1987. 

raquel welch

Actress Raquel Welch attends the 2016 Carousel Of Hope Ball at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Welch was an icon of her time and paved the way for women in film, specifically in more action-packed roles. At the same time, our minds might mostly remember that deerskin bikini in One Million Years BC. Her role was revolutionary in providing the audience with a female hero to identify with. 

Welch’s Loana was a fearless warrior who rescues the film’s male protagonists from a prehistoric turtle, Archelon. She also battles another warrior in the film, defeating her but refusing to deliver the killing blow. Loana was a full-rounded female character with both masculine and feminine qualities. She was a different type of heroine, not a damsel in distress. 

the three musketeers

The Three Musketeers. Credit: 20th Century Fox

Welch also posed for Playboy in 1979 but never did a fully nude shoot. She also never did any nude scenes in her films. Her sexuality wasn’t defined by the amount of clothing she wore but by her radiant personality and confidence. 

She famously commented on her image as a sex symbol: “The fact that I became one is probably the loveliest, most glamorous, and fortunate misunderstandings.”

Welch also appeared in Legally Blonde opposite Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon posted her reaction on social media, saying, “She was elegant, professional and glamorous beyond belief. Simply stunning.”

Paul Feig also posted a touching tribute to Welch, whom he worked with on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, in which the Bridesmaids director played the role of Mr Eugene Pool. Feig called Welch “kind, funny and a true superstar”. 

Welch’s influence on cinema and women heroes can’t be understated. She paved the way for heroines like Katniss Everdeen, Ellen Ripley and The Bride, giving women everywhere a chance to identify with a fierce, sexy heroine who was so much more than her sexuality. 

Leave a Reply

More like this