How a Raquel Welch poster be­came iconic

Empire (UK) - - RE.VIEW -

“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


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