Raquel Welch death: Hollywood icon dies aged 82

·3 min read

Hollywood star Raquel Welch has died at the age of 82.

The star, who appeared in films including Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years BC, died on Wednesday (15 February) following a “brief illness”.

Welch’s rep confirmed the news to ABC, writing: “The legendary bombshell actress of film, television and stage, passed away peacefully early this morning after a brief illness.

“Her career spanned over 50 years starring in over 30 films and 50 television series and appearances. The Golden Globe winner, in more recent years, was involved in a very successful line of wigs.”

“Raquel leaves behind her two children, son Damon Welch and her daughter, Tahnee Welch.”

Tributes have quickly flooded in for the star whose breakout role came in 1965’s Fantastic Voyage, with One Million Years BC arriving the next year.

While Welch had just three lines of dialogue in the latter, a publicity shot depicting her in a bikini costume went on to become one of the decade’s biggest-selling posters.

The poster appears on the wall of Andy Dufresne’s prison cell in 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption at the time of Tim Robbins character’s escape.

The multi-talented star went on to become one of the most successful actors of the 1960s and 1970s.

High-profile roles in Bedazzled (1967), Bandolero! (1968) and 100 Rifles (1969) followed, and in 1968, she starred opposite Frank Sinatra in detective film Lady in Cement.

Raquel Welch in ‘One Million Years BC’ (Moviestore/Shutterstock)
Raquel Welch in ‘One Million Years BC’ (Moviestore/Shutterstock)

Welch successfully escaped the “sex symbol” label she was given in the 1960s by producers and directors, many of whom tried to get her to perform nude scenes. She always refused.

She is quoted as saying: “I was not brought up to be a sex symbol, nor is it in my nature to be one. The fact that I became one is probably the loveliest, most glamorous and fortunate misunderstanding”.

She added: “What I do on the screen is not to be equated with what I do in my private life. Privately, I am understated and dislike any hoopla.”

In the 1970s, Welch continued proving her mettle with roles in Hannie Caulder (1971), Kansas City Bomber (1972) and The Last of Sheila (1973). She won a Golden Globe in 1972 for her role in The Three Musketeers.

Welch’s role in the revenger Western Hannie Caulder was one of Quentin Tarantino’s primary inspirations for his Kill Bill films (2003-04), starring Uma Thurman.

Frank Sinatra and Raquel Welch in ‘Lady in Cement’ (20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Frank Sinatra and Raquel Welch in ‘Lady in Cement’ (20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock)

While she never won an Oscar, the actor did accept one on behalf of her friend Goldie Hawn, who won Best Supporting Actress for the comedy film Private Benjamin in 1981.

The actor, who had a small role in Legally Blonde (2001), had many variety specials, one of which, in 1970, saw her receive more than a 51 per cent share of the TV viewing audience in the US.

Her other TV appearances included The Muppet Show (1978), Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996) and Right to Die, in which she played a woman with Lou Gehrig's disease. She received a Golden Globe nomination for the 1987 performance.

Welch also appeared opposite in the sitcom Seinfeld, and opposite Robin Williams in an episode of Mork and Mindy.

Welch also performed on stage, with one of her most notable roles arriving in a Broadway production of Victor/Victoria. She starred in the role after Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli.

Raquel Welch with Miss Piggy on ‘The Muppet Show’ in 1978 (David Dagley/Shutterstock)
Raquel Welch with Miss Piggy on ‘The Muppet Show’ in 1978 (David Dagley/Shutterstock)

As well as acting, Welch also sang and regularly performed a one-woman musical act in a Las Vegas nightclub.

In 1989, she released her first and only single, the dance track"This Girl's Back In Town", which reached No. 29 on Billboard's dance chart.

Welch was married four times: to high school sweetheart, James Welch, in 1959, to producer Patrick Curtis in 1967, to André Weinfeld, also a producer, in 1980, and to Mulberry Street Pizzeria owner Richard Palmer in 1999.