Welch died on February 15 morning in Los Angeles after a “brief illness", as per a statement provided by her manager, Steve Sauer.
Raquel Welch, a movie star, who became America's first major "sex symbol" as she rose to fame with the films One Million Years B.C. and Fantastic Voyage, has died, per a statement provided by her manager, Steve Sauer. She was 82 years old. Welch died on February 15 morning in Los Angeles after a “brief illness,” the statement said, per CNN.
The actress has over 70 film and television credits. She started as a spokesmodel on a variety show, Hollywood Palace, and had a small role in the Elvis Presley film Roustabout in 1964. Her claim to fame began two years later, with the release of the science fiction film Fantastic Voyage about a team of scientists injected into a critically ill man’s body; and One Million Years, B.C., a prehistoric drama where Welch played the role of the cavewoman Loana.
Here, photos of her in a fur bikini became the foundation of the movie’s promotions, turning Welch into an international sex symbol. As per New York Times, Posters from the film became extremely popular, as a critic noted, Welch was seen as “a lioness — fierce, passionate, and dangerously physical.” The poster later became a central device in the acclaimed movie The Shawshank Redemption.
After these projects, many doors opened for Welch as she did several roles in the 1960s, including the westerns Bandolero! The movie,100 Rifles generated much chatter about her then-controversial interracial love scene with former football star Jim Brown.
RIP RAQUEL WELCH (1940-2023) 💔— James Leighton (@JamesL1927) February 15, 2023
Here she is at her dazzling best in 1975 singing I’M A WOMAN with CHER. pic.twitter.com/v0Nr69EPF8
In 1967, Welch starred as Lilian Lust in Bedazzled, a film that would be remade in 2000 starring Elizabeth Hurley and Brendan Fraser. The Chicago-born actress also started as Constance de Bonacieux in the 1973 movie The Three Musketeers. Welch won a best actress Golden Globe award for her performance and renewed her role as de Bonacieux in the 1974 sequel The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge.
So sad to hear about Raquel Welch's passing. I loved working with her on Legally Blonde. She was elegant , professional and glamorous beyond belief. Simply stunning. May all her angels carry her home. 🕊️ Sending love to her family and her many fans ❤️ pic.twitter.com/FBtXhpvS25— Reese Witherspoon (@ReeseW) February 15, 2023
In the 1970s, Welch starred in the titular role of Myra Breckinridge, in which she played a trans actress. Later on in the 90s, Welch was part of various sitcoms, including Seinfeld, where she played herself as the legendary diva she had become. Welch was also seen in Spin City, Evening Shade, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
Raquel Welch was one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever worked with. Performing a duet with her on The Muppet Show helped moi become the W-O-M-A-N I am today! We’ll never forget vous, Raquel! pic.twitter.com/fo0saG7EiD— Miss Piggy (@MissPiggy) February 15, 2023
Her iconic roles continued into the turn of the century. The Hollywood legend appeared in 2001’s Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon and portrayed Mrs. Windham Vandermark, ex-wife of the late Hayworth Windham, whose murder Witherspoon’s Elle Woods solved.
Raquel Welch and Bob Hope perform for American troops, 1967. pic.twitter.com/Y931xfUUAS— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) February 16, 2023
Welch’s final performance was in 2017, where the icon starred as Rosa, the mother-in-law of a single dad, in UPtv’s Date My Dad.
"He told me how much it meant to him and to all the other soldiers serving there. It was gratifying to think in some small way I had done something of value for the men who fought there. I don't think I'll ever top that moment with Gen. Franks again"— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) February 16, 2023
- Raquel Welch NPC 5-7-2022 pic.twitter.com/HdWhOR5GOQ
Condolences outpoured from all sides of Hollywood. Reese Witherspoon tweeted, "So sad to hear about Raquel Welch's passing. I loved working with her on Legally Blonde. She was elegant, professional, and glamorous beyond belief. Simply stunning. May all her angels carry her home. Sending love to her family and her many fans."
This is so sad. I had the great pleasure of working with Ms. Welch when I was a regular on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and she was awesome. Kind, funny and a true superstar whom I was pretty much in love with for most of my childhood. We’ve lost a true icon. https://t.co/7RWiSn9e4P— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) February 15, 2023
Law & Order: SVU alum Chris Meloni took to Twitter to share his surprise at the news and wrote, "Raquel Welch dying is a very weird feeling." Another co-star of Welch, Paul Feig tweeted, "This is so sad. I had the great pleasure of working with Ms. Welch when I was a regular on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and she was awesome. Kind, funny, and a true superstar whom I was pretty much in love with for most of my childhood. We’ve lost a true icon."
Now, she leaves behind her immense body of work and her two children, son Damon Welch and daughter Tahnee Welch.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Matt Winkelmeyer