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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Bombshell Raquel Welch Turns 70 Today

Raquel Welch first won notable attention for her role as a supporting character in the 1950s SciFi cult classic, Fantastic Voyage. The turn as a sexy young assistant to a brilliant scientist earned her a contract with 20th Century-Fox. This would eventually lead to Welch's most memorable part as a buckskin clad beauty in One Million Years B.C.. She only had three lines in the film, but her doe-skin bikini ensured a best-selling poster that turned her into an iconic sex symbol, and catapulted her to stardom. Welch's poster was THE most definitive and best-selling pin-up of the era. After the death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962, the auburn-maned beauty effortlessly assumed Marilyn's place and forever wiped away the notion that enduring sex goddesses came only in one form - blonde.

Raquel remained an international celebrity in her first few years of stardom. In England and Italy she gained exposure in some lusty roles. First in 1967 as the revealing deadly sin "lust" in the comedy Peter Cook and Dudley Moore comedy Bedazzled. Then in mostly mediocre vehicles opposite such Italian heartthrobs as Marcello Mastroianni. Meanwhile, in the U.S. she and co-star Jim Brown caused a stir in their ground-breaking sex scenes in the "spaghetti western" 100 Rifles. And then in 1970 there's Welch's portrayal of the transgendered title role in Myra Breckinridge. The now cult classic was initially a laughingstock and did nothing to help Raquel's attempt at being taking seriously as an actress.

Try as she might, Welch's appearances in such films as Kansas City Bomber and The Wild Party, only solidified the typecasting she struggled to escape, even though she drew some good reviews. Although good leading roles remained to elude her, Welch did continue to do well with modest supporting roles in larger ensemble pieces. She even won a Golden Globe for Supporting Actress in the swashbuckler The Three Musketeers in 1973. Plans for a comeback were stalled when she was suddenly fired during the production of Cannery Row in 1982. She sued MGM for breach of contract and ultimately won a $15 million settlement, but it didn't help her film career and only helped to label her as trouble on a set. She would eventually find a lucrative avenue pitching beauty products in infomercials and developing exercise videos as the notable actress Jane Fonda had done before her.

Welch is quoted as saying, "Americans have always had sex symbols. It'a time-honored tradition and I'm flattered to have been one. But it's hard to have a long, fruitful career once you've been stereotyped that way. That's why I'm proud to say I've endured. Look at somebody like Marilyn Monroe. I always wondered why she seemed so unhappy. Everybody worshipped her and she was so extraordinary and hypnotic on screen. But they never nominated her for any of her musicals or comedies, as good as she was. Because for some reason, somebody with her sex appeal, her indescribable attraction, is rarely taken seriously. Hollywood doesn't honor comedy and it doesn't honor sex appeal. And they definitely don't give awards to either of them. So you always feel a little insecure".

Still a dazzler at age 70, Raquel continues to pop up in entertainment and can still turn heads. She's even spoofed her own diva image on occasion, most memorably on Seinfeld. More recently she has co-starred in the Hispanic-oriented TV series American Family in 2002 with Edward James Olmos, and in the short-lived comedy, and appeared in the movies Tortilla Soup (2001), Legally Blonde (2001) and Forget About It (2006). No doubt, Raquel Welch will continue to make her mark for as long as she has breath. Always looking forward to a health and happy future.

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