An actress and beauty icon, the statuesque Raquel Welch was one of the most popular celebrities of the 1960s and 1970s. Born Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940, in Chicago, she began taking dancing lessons as a child and by her teens was already winning beauty contests. After working as a waitress and model, Welch relocated to Hollywood in 1963; within three days, she had already landed a manager, Patrick Curtis, and soon they formed a promotions company, Curtwell Enterprises. After appearing in Life magazine, she began working on the ABC series Hollywood Palace, and in 1964 made her feature debut with an unbilled appearance in the Elvis Presley vehicle Roustabout. In 1965, she scored her first lead role in the pop musical A Swingin' Summer, resulting in a contract with 20th Century Fox, which cast her in the sci-fi hit Fantastic Voyage before loaning her to the British horror studio Hammer. There she starred in a 1967 remake of One Million Years B.C. Despite the publicity, Fox was clearly wary of her talents, and did not ask her to return to Hollywood; instead she remained in Europe, starring with Edward G. Robinson and Vittorio de Sica in 1968's The Biggest Bundle of Them All and with Monica Vitti and Claudia Cardinale in Le Fate.
After appearing as Lust in Stanley Donen's seven-deadly-sins comedy Bedazzled, Welch finally returned to the U.S. She had roles in pictures like Bandolero! and Lady in Cement. Following in 1969 was 100 Rifles, a controversial Western which paired Welch with Jim Brown, and a year later she earned her first real starring role in the disastrous Myra Breckenridge. Her situation was unusual; she was certainly a star and a household name, yet few people ever went to see her movies -- neither 1971's Hannie Caulder nor the following year's Fuzz did anything to alter the dilemma. While both 1973's The Three Musketeers and its sequel The Four Musketeers were well received, she earned little credit for their success, and when the 1976 black comedy Mother, Jugs and Speed did not do as well as expected, Welch ended her Hollywood career.
Welch instead turned to nightclubs, concert stages, and television; she also continued making films in Europe, including 1977's The Prince and the Pauper and L' Animal, co-starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. In 1980, she was tapped to star in Cannery Row, but was fired a month into production; she filed suit against MGM for damages, and was awarded 11 million dollars. Welch spent the 1980s focusing primarily on television productions like 1982's The Legend of Walks Far Woman and 1987's Right to Die, in which she delivered one of her strongest performances as a woman suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. In 1994 Welch returned to cinema in the comedy The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.
Throughout the decade, she also made a number of infomercials and exercise videos, and in 1995 also starred in the nighttime soap opera CPW. In 1997, she took over for Julie Andrews in the Broadway musical Victor/Victoria.