Award-winning American actress Raquel Welch has died at the age of 82 following a short illness after a prolific career in Hollywood that included starring roles in a pair of classic science fiction and fantasy films with “Fantastic Voyage” and “One Million Years B.C.”
Per Deadline (opens in new tab), Welch passed away on Wednesday (Feb. 15) leaving a legacy of more than 50 feature films and dozens of TV series appearances that included roles in “McCale’s Navy,” “Bewitched,” “The Virginian,” and even a later 1997 cameo on “Seinfeld.”
Born in Chicago on September 5, 1940 as Jo Raquel Tejada, Welch was a theater arts major at San Diego State University prior to scoring small screen gigs on her way to larger fame. In 1966, her on-screen charisma and considerable sex appeal took Hollywood by storm and landed Welch major roles in two iconic 1966 feature films that still resonate with audiences today
First was director Richard Fleischer’s science fiction fantasy adventure, “Fantastic Voyage.” Here she portrayed the character of Cora Peterson, a medical assistant miniaturized along with a special team inside a submarine-like craft and injected into the body of a dying Cold War scientist to try and save his life. The imaginative production was nominated for five Oscars at the 39th Academy Awards, eventually winning for both Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction.
“Fantastic Voyage” has been targeted for a remake over the decades by everyone from filmmakers James Cameron and Roland Emmerich, to Sean Levy and Guillermo del Toro yet the movie still remains unmade.
Next was the Hammer Films/Seven Arts fantasy epic, “One Million Years B.C.,” which was first released in the U.K. in December of 1966 before scoring a U.S. rollout the next year in a slightly edited form. Not exactly historically accurate, the prehistoric spectacle saw Welch playing Loana, a scantily-clad cavewoman of the Shell Tribe who hooks up with the banished Tumak (John Richardson) of the Rock Tribe in a fight for survival amid angry marauding dinosaurs. Legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen provided the impressive creature effects.
Later performances in movies like “Bandolero!,” “100 Rifles,” “Myra Breckinridge,” “Kansas City Bomber,” “Fuzz,” “The Three Musketeers,” and “The Four Musketeers” solidified her place as an international sex symbol and bankable Hollywood star.
Welch is survived by her two children, son Damon Welch and daughter Tahnee Welch.