The name Raquel Welch may not readily ring a bell for the present generation but in Hollywood history, she is regarded as one of the last great sex symbols in the industry. A veteran actress whose career spans five decades, Raquel rose to fame in the mid-1960s following her appearance in the 1966 films, Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C.
In the second film, she was costumed with nothing more than a two-piece bikini, made from the skin of a deer, which left most of her well-shaped body open. This consequently made her a favorite and the dream girl of a huge number of moviegoers, despite the fact that she had only three lines in the film.
A publicity poster of Raquel dressed in the same costume became a bestseller, transforming the young actress into a pin-up model, as well as a sex symbol of her time. This made her quite famous but it also proved to be a hindrance as she had to fight hard to establish herself as a genuinely-talented actress and not just some sexpot.
Her Early Days As A Cocktail Waitress And Model
Raquel Welch’s journey into Hollywood did not come about by accident or chance and can be traced back to her early years on the face of mother earth. As a child growing up in San Diego, California, the young girl (birth name – Jo Raquel Tejada) exhibited a natural affinity for the arts and started taking ballet lessons at the age of seven. She then got involved in pageantry and won several titles as a teenager. They include Miss Photogenic and Miss Contour, Miss La Jolla, Miss San Diego – the Fairest of the Fair, and Maid of California.
Whilst tearing up the pageantry circuit, Raquel Welch was also honing her acting skills simultaneously. As far back as the age of seven, she took part in a play, Christmas for Olga, put up by the Mission Beach’s Women’s Club Junior. She subsequently went on to join the San Diego Junior Theater and appeared in at least two of their plays, titled The Princess Who Disappeared and Curtain’s Going Up!, at ages 12 and 15 respectively.
Despite such a busy schedule of activities, Raquel did not abandon her academics. She rather did quite well in it and was able to get a scholarship to study theater arts at San Diego State College in 1958. Unfortunately, due to several life circumstances beyond her control, the young lady could not complete her studies and dropped out. She relocated to Dallas, Texas, where she worked as a model and cocktail waitress in order to earn a living. Later on, she moved back to Los Angeles in 1963 and began hunting for acting roles.
How One Million Years B.C. Fuelled Her Emergence As A Hollywood Sex Symbol
In Los Angeles, Raquel Welch met former child actor-turned- Hollywood agent, Patrick Curtis, and he became her personal and business manager. He came up with the idea of transforming her into a sex symbol. He also got her to agree to use her husband’s last name “Welch” even though they had separated. This was in a bid to enhance her ability to land more roles and career opportunities in Hollywood.
All of Curtis’ foresight and advice paid off and Raquel subsequently started getting acting jobs in films and television, though they were small roles. Later on, she landed her first feature role in the 1965 beach film, A Swingin’ Summer. That same year, she drew the attention of the wife of Saul David, a producer, who mentioned her to 20th Century Fox where she got an acting contract with the help of Curtis.
Raquel’s first job for 20th Century Fox was the 1966 film, Fantastic Voyage. The sci-fi film revolved around some scientists who are placed in a nuclear submarine and miniaturized in order to go into the brain pf a scientist and conduct a life-saving surgery. Such a plotline was simply radical for its time and this made the movie a box office hit, grossing $12 million on a budget of $5.1 movie. The movie also received glowing tributes from critics and this combination helped propel Raquel into the limelight. She then became an international superstar, thanks to another film that she appeared in, One Million Years B.C.
One million Years B.C. revolved around a caveman who tries to negotiate peace between two warring tribes but finds himself falling in love with the daughter of one of the tribal chiefs. The fantasy film featured John Richardson as the caveman while Raquel portrayed his love interest named Loana. Even though she did not have many lines in the movie, her iconic deer-skin two-piece bikini was enough to make her a superstar and cement her reputation as a sex symbol.
Hannie Caulder And Other Roles That Helped Her Become The Archetypical Modern Day Heroine
One Million Years B.C. did wonders for Raquel Welch’s career but it also came with a price. Many casting directors now saw her as just a sexy body and beautiful face and thus gave her roles that conformed to that. She portrayed the beautiful neighbor in Shoot Loud, Louder… I Don’t Understand (1966), a call girl in The Oldest Profession (1967), a symbol of lust in Bedazzled (1967), and the girlfriend of a gangster in The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968).
Such bimbo roles left Raquel dissatisfied and she just knew she had to do something drastic to rescue her career from the pits. The San Diego native took on radical roles, such as a freedom fighter in 100 Rifles (1969) and a transgender woman in Myra Breckinridge (1970), but they didn’t have the desired effect as controversies marred the movies.
She, therefore, took the initiative of producing and starring in her own movie titled Hannie Caulder. In the western film, Welch excellently portrayed a frontier wife on a revenge mission against a gang of outlaws who murdered her husband and raped her. Her performance helped make the movie a box office success and served as a precursor for other female action stars. Most importantly, it proved that she could act.
Having proved the doubters wrong, Raquel Welch would go on to score diverse roles in movies such as Kansas City Bomber, The Three Musketeers, Animal, and The Prince and The Pauper. She also held sway on the small screen, appearing in TV series such as Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Date My Dad, America Family, and TV films such as Scandal in Small Town, Trouble In Paradise, Torch Song, and Right To Die.
Her Accolades Include The 1974 Golden Globe Award For Best Actress
Raquel Welch won the 1974 Golden Globe Award for best actress in a motion picture for her performance in The Three Musketeers. 14 years after that, she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award again, thanks to her portrayal of a woman stricken with Lou Gehrig disease in the 1987 NBC TV movie, Right To Die. She did not end up winning this time around, but this did not take anything away from her excellent work in the movie.
In 1994, Raquel’s contributions to the film industry in America earned her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard. The Actress has also received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Imagen Foundation (2001), as well as the National Association Of Latino Independent Producers (2015), for positively promoting Americans of Latin heritage throughout the period of her career.
This particular award was quite significant, given that Raquel had spent the early days of her career downplaying her Latina heritage in order to make it in Hollywood. She later decided to embrace who she was and once that decision was made, implemented it with full force. The actress refused to dye her hair blonde from then onwards. She also featured in Latina-themed projects, including the 2002 TV series, American Family, about a Mexican-American household living in Los Angeles.
Her Success Contributed To The Demise Of Her Four Marriages
Although Raquel has had a highly successful acting career, the same cannot be said about her love life. The actress has been married four times and after the last fell apart like the others, she clearly stated that she has no intention of getting married again. The actress also revealed that the divorces she faced had something to do with the fact that her partners couldn’t handle her success.
First Marriage Was To Her High School Sweetheart – James Welch
Raquel gets her now-famous last name from her very first husband, James Welch. As the story goes, James was her boyfriend during their high school days at La Jolla high school. They were so much in love that a year after school, they tied the knot on the 8th day of May in 1959.
The lovebirds had much hope for their marriage but they could only make it last for about four years during which they welcomed two children. They separated in 1962 and formalized their divorce in 1964.
She Fell For And Married Her Agent/Business Manager – Patrick Curtis
In showbiz, it is often common for talents to fall in love with their agents and this scenario played out in Rachel’s second marriage. The Golden Globe winner tied the knot with her former agent, Patrick Curtis, in 1967. Raquel first met Curtis when she moved to L.A. in the ’60s to pursue a career in Hollywood. He signed her as her agent and repackaged her brand to become a success in the industry.
He also produced a number of projects that she starred in, including the movie, Hannie Caulder and the TV show, Raquel. All these professional collaborations meant that the pair were often in close communication and they naturally fell in love. They tied the knot in 1967 and made their union last for about five years before they divorced in 1972.
Third Marriage To French-American Producer – Andre Weinfeld Crashed In 1990
Eight years after divorcing Curtis, Raquel Welch tied the knot with André Weinfeld, a French-American film producer, director, and screenwriter. He obtained his education at prestigious French institutions such as the Sorbonne and Lycee Louis-le-Grand. He subsequently went on to produce numerous documentaries and specials for French TV stations.
Raquel and Weinfeld tied the knot in 1980. Their union lasted for ten years during which the French-American man produced a variety TV show starring his wife. He also published her bestselling fitness books, as well as directed and produced her fitness videos. All these collaborations came to a halt after their divorce in 1990. Weinfeld would go on to remarry in 1992, to model and singer, Jaimie Lilly, but the union also ended in divorce seven years later.
On Her Fourth Attempt At Marriage, Raquel Tied The Knot With Restauranteur – Richard Palmer
Raquel Welch’s last marriage was to restauranteur – Richard Palmer, an accomplished restauranteur. He is the owner of several eating establishments, including Mulberry Street Italian Restaurant in Beverly Hills, as well as Richie’s Neighborhood Pizza Stores.
Welch and Palmer tied the knot in 1999 but their relationship also went sour, leading to a separation in 2003 and a divorce later on. The couple maintained that there was no third party involved and that their separation was amicable. They lived up to these words as there was no bickering in finalizing their divorce.
Raquel Welch’s Daughter Followed Her Footsteps But With Less Success
Raquel Welch had two children with her first husband. The first, named Damon Welch, was born on the 6th of November 1959 while the second, a daughter named Tahnee Rene Welch, was born on December 26, 1961.
Tahnee has toed her mother’s career path but with less success. She modeled for magazines such as Marie Claire, GQ, Playboy, Vogue, and Interview back in the day. She has also taken part in some Italian and American movies, including Search and Destroy, Body and Soul, Black Light, Night Train to Venice, and Lethal Obsessions. Tahnee was previously married to English actor and TV star – Jared Harris. They, however, divorced in 1996 after five years of marriage.
Damon, on his own part, made a couple of sporadic appearances in his mother’s productions in his early 20s. He has since stayed away from the spotlight save for June 1991 when he got married to Rebecca Truman, the daughter of legendary English cricketer, Fred Truman. The wedding made headlines after his mother was accused of trying to upstage the bride by arriving late, decked in a hot black dress.
The whole situation caused an uproar and it never went away, even though the couple divorced just 15 months after the wedding. As recently as 2020, Rebecca was asked about the incident and she maintained that people had made a big deal out of the whole thing.
The Last Time Raquel Welch Was In A Movie Was Back In 2017
Raquel Welch makes her home in Los Angeles and is often spotted up and about, running different errands. For instance, in July 2019, the Fantastic Voyage star was photographed running errands in the city. She looked quite gorgeous in a casual outfit consisting of black bottoms, matching top, white shirt over, hat, sunglasses, and jewelry.
Welch also remains active in the industry but her role is largely limited to sitting back and receiving accolades for her life’s work. Her last-known professional roles came in 2017 in Date My Dad and How To Be a Latin Lover. Date My Dad is a Canadian sitcom about an ex-professional athlete who is raising three daughters alone after his wife dies. He attempts to resume his love life and all hell breaks loose. Date My Dad features Barry Watson in the lead role of Rick while Welch played his mother-in-law, Rosa.
The Golden Globe Winner also had a supporting role in the comedy film, How To Be a Latin Lover. This is a film about a man who has spent all his life being sustained by an older woman. The lady later throws him out and he starts targeting other rich older ladies, including one named Celeste Birch (portrayed by Welch).