Friday, 10 September 2010

Raquel Welch Season

Jo Tejada
For a period in the very early 70s, Jo Raquel Tejada had pride of place on my bedroom wall, lording it over the Gallic Brigitte Bardot and the cool Norwegian Julie Ege. During that time I tried to see as many of her films as possible but cinemas in my neck of the woods very rarely showed them and it seemed only old black and white films were shown on TV at that time so the list was depressingly short.

‘Fathom’ came and went and , I think ‘100 Rifles’ (both ‘B’ movies to the main event) and I even sneaked in, years under age, to see the worst film of all time; ‘Myra Breckinridge’. After that, interest waned so it has been fun recently to see a whole raft of them, some for the very first time, after so many years in my very own Raquel Welch season at chez MusicObsessive.

60s Spy Spoof -'Fathom'
The advantage of following a so-so actress is that all her old films can be found in the bargain bin at next-to-nothing prices, so I’ve been able to pick up the sci-fi ‘Fantastic Voyage’ (1966), the spy-spoof ‘Fathom’ (1967), the western ‘Bandolero!’, the private eye detecting ‘Lady in Cement’ (both 1968), another western ‘100 Rifles’ (1969) and yet another western ‘Hannie Caulder’ (1971) for very little outlay at all.

The one thing that that becomes obvious having watched this lot is that no-one really knew what to do with her. At the time, she was married to film producer, Patrick Curtis, who was hell-bent on promoting his easy-on-the-eye wife, a young mother with two children in tow incidentally, on a journey that one cinema website describes as from ‘Cocktail Waitress to 60s Sexpot’ and effectively succeeding. The problem was that the films designed as vehicles to promote this image were run of the mill and didn’t really make the most of her middling talent.

Another Western Wench - 'Hannie Caulder'
Making use of her South American looks (courtesy of her Bolivian father), she was endlessly cast as the feisty Mexican wench in westerns or as the exotic neighbour in a bikini (natch) drawn into the unlikely circumstances of the main protagonists. Neither of which really showed us what she could do but only showed us her - which, presumably, was the plan. As an aside, one thing you notice, well one of the things, is she has a waist, which few young women seem to have these days. Is it not fashionable any more or has it gone the same way as the real hourglass?

It isn’t until ‘Kansas City Bomber’ (1972) and ‘The Three Musketeers’ (1973) and the post-Curtis era that we begin to see what she was good at; the ‘everywoman’ role and especially, comedy (she won a Golden Globe for ‘Musketeers’), a glimpse of which was evident as far back as ‘Fathom’ in 1967. But all this was too little too late and with no recognition and the inevitable aging process diminishing her sex symbol roles, she left the film set in 1977 to appear in TV, sell wigs and fitness videos like most other 80s celebs. In retrospect it is a shame that her looks worked against her by obscuring her real natural talents but I dare say it was ever thus.


TR1-Guy said...

Oh my, Raquel Welch... You and I are just about the same age and she was my first "sexy" poster I was allowed to have in my room. First was just one in her swimsuit and the second one her "hair" (a huge wig) covering her "naked" body.

Her films filled my boyish fantasies. I saw "Fantastic Voyage" for the Sci-Fi part and for Raquel. The other westerns that offered tiny peeks into her very sexy body also were on my list.

But like you, as I grew older, you saw much more to this woman. She had a brain, a voice... and talent. But the 60s/70s era had one thing on its mind: Sex sells. And Raquel was sex, pure and simple.

She is still a fantastic looking woman today with a lot to say. I'm sure it's expensive to keep up her looks, but her point of view is just as gripping, if not more so.

It is a shame she never achieved the greatness she deserved beyond being the Sex Goddess most of our generation remembers. Nice one, Martin!

music obsessive said...

Hi Byron. Yes, to our generation, she is the one. I had a ball watching all those old films, it brought back a load of memories, not least sneaking in to watch 'X' rated films (as they were then) at 14. One such cinema, the Gaumont in St Albans has long been demolished and the other, the Art-Deco Odeon is disused and in sorry disrepair.

Perhaps I'll pick up some of her later TV films - any suggestions?