ONE IN A MILLION
How a Raquel Welch poster became iconic
“Mankind’s first bikini!” screamed the publicity for Hammer studios’ One
Million Years B.C.. The poster turned a doe-skin two-piece into a pop cultural artefact, and a then 26-year-old Raquel Welch into a star. Surprisingly the image itself, of cave girl Loana ready for action, does not appear in the finished film. Instead, it was captured by an unnamed photographer who took Welch to the top of a volcano in the Canary Islands and snapped away. Welch thought nothing of it until she landed at Heathrow Airport.
“There were all these photographers waiting,” Welch marvels of the ’60s equivalent of going viral. “I thought, ‘How did they know who I am?’ And they said, ‘This poster.’ I said, ‘What poster?’ I had nothing to do with it. Not consciously.”
The film did fairly well at the box office, but it’s that image that stuck. For Welch, it’s nothing to do with skimpiness and everything to do with attitude
“I think it’s that girl standing in that posture, ready for combat,” she says. “It broke the mould of prissy little pin-up photos we mostly see that are submissive and coy. I never liked prissy.”
Perhaps its greatest tribute came in The Shawshank Redemption, where “lovely Raquel”, as Morgan Freeman’s Red calls her, was one of the posters (with Gilda and Marilyn Monroe’s pose from The Seven Year Itch) used to mark the passing of time as Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) dug for liberty.
“[Director] Frank Darabont called me,” recalls Welch. “I thought it was a beautiful homage because of the company I’m in... I was very honoured to be a part of that film and an image that represented great freedom.” IF
ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. IS OUT NOW ON DVD AND BLU-RAY