Beauty Icon and New Woman Raquel Welch
“I am Myra Breckenridge, and no man will possess me … I’m a New Woman … a creation of imagination, a dream that embodied the eternal desire of all women to regain the dominant position they had lost in the Bronze Age …”
This self-characterization belongs to Myra Breckinridge, the heroine of the eponymous novel by American writer Gore Vidal. Written in the now popular genre of satire with elements of fiction, Vidal’s novel tells of the transformation of a man named Myron into a woman named Myra. And the cinematic career of this super-woman who set herself the goal of winning Hollywood and through it the whole male half of the human race.
The book was a success and, of course, Hollywood immediately bought it. Then, a curious thing happened. Hardly had the film been put into production, as it became the subject of scandalous gossip on the pages of cinematographic and general press. The Time Magazine wrote: “Since the days of Cleopatra, not a single film has caused so much gossip, speculation, and expectations – up to backstage skirmishes …”
Gossip and skirmishes in many ways related to the choice of the performer of the title role. At first, it was assumed that Elizabeth Taylor would play the role of Myra. Reports about this have already appeared in the press, and journalists have speculated how the superstar of Hollywood will handle with the role of superwoman…. However, filmmakers announced: they invited one of the rising stars of modern cinema, Raquel Welch to play Myra.
In addition, the author of the article in Time magazine called Raquel Welch “America’s response to Ursula Andress.”
In fact, this is not the first and, not the last “answer” of this kind – the noisy popularity of any star that has become fashionable immediately prompts the producers to search, and sometimes find their screen counterparts. True, usually this double, like any copy, not only can not compete in popularity with the “original”, but generally disappears from the kinorizon after one or two films. In the case of Raquel Welch, things were different. A movie star, created by producers in the image and likeness of the British actress Ursula Andress, the performer of the roles of disastrously cold, ruthless beauties, she quickly became equal with her popularity. And now, perhaps, Ursula Andress is perceived as her, the screen copy.
However, Raquel Welch also had a real double – the American cinematographic press heavily advertised the beginning actress Edie Williams, the same type as Raquel Welch, only (as they write about her) a little bit more vulgar. And it is characteristic that, despite advertising, this “double” after participating in several films that have passed absolutely unnoticed at the end of the 1960s, in 1971 was without a contract.
The casting of a new star (Raquel Welch), according to the already existing model (Ursula Andress), resulted in success in this case. And if Welch has surpassed her “model”, then, apparently, because in her this kind of individuality presented with greater artistic completeness. This, however, you begin to understand, only moving a little distance from this or that particular film, abstracting from them, comparing both actresses. Both are immaculately beautiful and both on the screen seem to be none. At first, until you look closely, you need a certain effort to restore the image of one and the image of the other in memory.
To recall that, let’s remember the “Tenth Victim” with Ursula Andress, and the “Fantastic Journey” with Raquel Welch. It could be the opposite, and it would be the same. Therefore, even such an excellent connoisseur of cinema world, as Roger Bussino, mistakenly names in his directory among the films in which Raquel Welch starred, the Casino Royale. The mistake (in the film was not Rakel Welch, but Ursula Andress) is psychologically quite understandable. Indeed, Raquel Welch could have acted in this film, more than that – she seems literally created for the Bond series. However, she didn’t, apparently, only because the main films about the 007 agent were created in the first half of the 60s, when very few people had heard of Raquel Welch.
In most of her works, Raquel Welch was to create the image of a woman from women – the New Woman. “Fantastic Voyage” and “One Million Years B.C. (1966)” – the two most famous films with the participation of Raquel Welch. In the first of them she plays the woman of the future, in the second she is a woman of prehistoric times. It is this primitive woman, armed with a cudgel, – the most human of all the heroines of Welch. Here, at least according to the plot, there are some beginnings of human feelings – something that for the heroine of the “Fantastic Voyage”, armed with a laser, will become an atavistic remnant.
On the same basis of “representativeness”, heroines of Welch build relationship with men, and in particular, the male half of the human race. And no sentimentality, no metamorphosis: Petruccio’s whip from the very beginning in her hands. Although, depending on the circumstances, this whip can turn into not only the whip itself, but also a club, revolver, laser. Her weapons are not only women’s charms, but also weapons themselves. As for the spell, then even in its sexuality there is something elusively machine. If it is true, as psychologists say, the car for many of its owners turns into an object endowed with erotic properties, the same you perceive the beautiful Welch by looking at the screen. And with about the same feeling as the magnificent new model of the “cruiser” or “peugeot”.
The “phenomenon of Raquel Welch” is not so much a cinematic, but a social phenomenon. And the screen appearance of the super- and re-emancipated heroine of Welch is the best match for the type of the New Woman. Particularly, the woman-machine, and, perhaps, a symbol of the notorious “masculinization” of a woman, a model of what Goethe once called “Das ewig Weibliche” – eternal femininity.
Some interesting facts about Raquel Welch.
Born Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940, she has English-Bolivian roots. According to Empire magazine, Raquel Welch became one of the “100 Sexiest Stars in Film History”. Besides, ranked No. 3 by Playboy, she entered the “100 Sexiest Stars of the Twentieth Century” list. Also, Men’s Health ranked her No. 2, in the list of “Hottest Women of All Time”.
According to Gianni Bozzacchi, the photographer, Raquel Welch wasn’t a snob. “She wasn’t full of herself. On set she was sweet with everyone. And she took her work very seriously. Richard said she had perfect timing and was very easy to work with. Her body was perfectly proportioned. She looked like a six-foot model, and her golden skin was truly photogenic”.
Beauty Icon and New Woman Raquel Welch
public group vk.com/fatalwomen
magazine “Actors of foreign cinema”, 7-1972
My Life in Focus: A Photographer’s Journey with Elizabeth Taylor and the Hollywood Jet Set”, Gianni Bozzacchi. University Press of Kentucky. 2016