It feels strangely unreal and almost spooky that Raquel Welch, whose erotic vibrancy seemed so overwhelming and ice cream sundae-ish back in the day, has actually died. She had a poised and occasionally brittle quality, but more essentially a pulse and a presence you could actually feel through the big-screen membrane. Alas…

Born into a Bolivian family in 1940, Jo Raquel Tejada (Welch was an acquired last name through an early marriage to Richard Welch) grew up in the San Diego / La Jolla region. Her beauty and hot bod opened many doors during her late ‘50s to mid ‘60s struggling period, but she always resisted attempts by filmmakers to over-exploit her sexuality.

It is HE’s humble judgment that the best film in which Welch starred or at least costarred in was Richard Lester‘s The Three Musketeers (’73), in which she played Constance Bonacieux, the live-wire ally and girlfriend of Michael York‘s D’Artagnan.

Geraldine Chaplin had the more central or commanding female role, but Welch and Faye Dunaway were strong seconds. Plus Welch’s performance won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress — Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.

It should also be acknowledged that the deerskin bikini that Welch wore in One Million Years B.C. made her into an iconic figure in the mid ’60s. (Are we allowed to acknowledge the long-ago existence of glammy sex symbols? Will the Khmer Rouge commissars put an asterisk next to our names if we do?) And yes, she was pretty good in Bedazzled, I suppose, and in 100 Rifles with Jim Brown. And there was Myra Breckenridge, of course. And Bandolero!

Yes, she acquired the backstage rep of a difficult bitch during the making of The Last of Sheila (’73) and especially following her dismissal from Cannery Row (‘82).

But the only truly good, triple-A film that Welch was part of (and to her eternal credit) was the first Musketeers film. I never cared as much for the darker-flavored second one, The Four Musketeers (’74), in which Welch’s character was strangled to death by Faye Dunaway’s ruthless Milady de Winter.

The idea of Welch and Tom Luddy strolling through that Heaven Can Wait soundstage, knee-deep in those clouds and being asked to get in line and provide their names to the gray-suited checklist guy as they wait to board that white Concorde jet…

Posted on 8.22.22: Perhaps it’s time for Raquel Welch, now 82, to step up to the plate and explain what happened a half-century ago during the making of The Last of Sheila (’73). Is she going to let the statements of costars James Mason and Ian McShane go unchallenged, or does she have fresh information that might alter the classic narrative?

According to an 11.12.72 Chicago Tribune piece titled “Raquel Plans Suit Against Director”, there were also complaints about Welch’s behavior. Welch announced she was suing director Herbert Ross for assault and battery as a result of an incident in her dressing room. She claimed she had to flee to London during the shoot “to escape physical harm”. Warner Bros later issued a statement supporting Ross and criticizing Welch for her “public utterances”.

Excerpt: “Shooting the monastery sequence just off Cannes proved to be troublesome for Welch. Gale force winds and rain disrupted the night shoot, and Welch was reluctant to leave her Venice hotel for fear of getting stuck in the storm.”

Mason said that Welch “was the most selfish, ill-mannered, inconsiderate actress that I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with”.

McShane: “Raquel Welch isn’t the most friendly creature. She seems to set out with the impression that no one is going to like her.”