American actress Raquel Welch, star of the 1960s and 70s widely remembered in Hollywood for her role as a cave naiad in a bikini of animal skin in One Million Years B.C., died Wednesday at the age of 82 years old, announced his manager. Raquel Welch "passed away peacefully early this morning after a brief illness," he said in a statement sent to Agence France-Presse, without further details. During her career, she had appeared in more than 30 films, including The Fantastic Voyage and The Three Musketeers.
After the disappearance of Marilyn Monroe in 1962, the young amazon with the auburn mane regained the status of universal sex symbol in 1966, sweeping away the idea that only a blonde could embody the quintessence of femininity. But her fame was based on a misunderstanding: she was only asked to strip while Raquel Welch always wanted to prove that she had talent. "I really had the feeling that people were totally laughing at me, they were only interested in the other woman: the one astride, in the rabbit skin bikini, with that impossible hourglass figure! They were all in love with this kind of super woman coming straight from the Amazon. »
Jo-Raquel Tejada, born in Chicago on September 5, 1940 to a Bolivian aeronautical engineer and an American, grew up in California, where she learned classical dance. At 14, the young Latin American won "Miss Photogenic" awards, the first of a long series, including "Miss Shapes", "Miss Beauty Amongst Beauties", "Miss Lady of California".
After a brief marriage to James Welch, a high school dunce with whom she had two children under the age of 20, she moved to Dallas and worked odd jobs as a waitress and a suggestive poster model. Seeking stardom, she returned to Los Angeles in 1963, where she met Patrick Curtis, an enterprising advertising agent. He launched the career of this young woman with maddening lines and convinced her to keep the name of Welch to hide her Latin origins, then little to Hollywood taste. She started out in mediocre films, the most notable being The Handyman, where she appeared alongside Elvis Presley.
After twenty extra roles, she was spotted by 20th Century Fox, who chose her in 1966 as the headliner for Richard Fleischer's The Fantastic Journey. The science fiction film makes her take off. That same year, she played a prehistoric savage in One Million Years Before Jesus Christ, a poor, almost silent film whose only poster will mark the history of cinema. Raquel poses there in the famous animal skin bikini whose shreds seem to have been torn off by a ferocious animal or a hungry caveman.
"People saw me as a sex symbol, but in reality I was a single mother with two young children," she exclaimed half a century later in her autobiography, Beyond the Cleavage. ). "Can you imagine me on the poster with one kid under my arm and the other in a stroller? That kinda busts the myth, doesn't it? »
In 1967, she married her pygmalion in Paris, wearing a sensational white mesh mini-dress. Rich, famous, she then led the way: sumptuous villa in Beverly Hills, black marble swimming pool, Rolls-Royce. The Times made its cover in November 1969. She made a series of films in the 1970s but remained confined to her status as a beauty in all the genres in which she ventured. Westerns (Bandolero, A colt for three bastards), detective films (The Woman in cement) or comedies (L'Animal by Claude Zidi with Belmondo).
In 1969, never-before-seen erotic scenes with black actor Jim Brown in One Hundred Guns and her transgender role in the parody Myra Breckinridge (1970) did little to help her image evolve. However, she won a Golden Globe for The Three Musketeers in 1973.
Fired by MGM on the set of Rue de la sardine in 1982, she attacked the studio and obtained 15 million dollars for wrongful breach of contract. The case does not give him good publicity. A yoga enthusiast, she launched herself, like Jane Fonda, into the wellness business. After having hidden her Latin origins for a long time, the dashing sexagenarian then assumes her roots, embodying roles of Hispanics in American Family (2002) or Tortilla Soup (2001). At 68, she divorced her fourth husband, 14 years her junior.