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Raquel Welch, 1940 – 2023

Raquel Welch, 1940 – 2023

Raquel Welch, model, actor, singer, and icon, has passed away at the age of 82. Throughout an illustrious career, Welch captivated audiences with her fiery charisma, fierce talent and stunning beauty.

One of the defining connections of her professional and personal lives was her friendship with Terry O’Neill. The pair met in 1966, on the set of Welch’s film “One Million Years B.C.” At the time, censorship laws that had stifled Hollywood for decades were finally being repealed, but between takes, Welch mentioned to O’Neill that she expected to be “crucified” by the press for being photographed in her now iconic fur bikini. It gave O’Neill an idea: he asked the studio to erect a giant crucifix, onto which Welch climbed and posed dramatically. The shoot went beautifully, but when O’Neill and Welch looked at the developed photographs, they became nervous about the possibility of causing offence. O’Neill decided not to publish them.

About thirty years later, Iconic Images President Robin Morgan, then editor of The Sunday Times Magazine, found these photographs in a box in O’Neill’s studio. He convinced O’Neill to publish the definitive shot — now famous as “Raquel on the Cross” — on the cover of the magazine. It has since become one of the most reproduced images in O’Neill’s archive. Besides being visually spectacular, the image stands as a defiant satirical comment on how women are often treated by the press, a message which, in the 1960s, was ahead of its time.

In the decades that followed, O’Neill and Welch worked together on numerous photo shoots, capturing the star at the height of her magnetic beauty. The collaboration was fuelled by a deep mutual respect and admiration. 

“The camera loves her. Well, everyone loves her!” O’Neill said of Welch in his later years. “Our friendship has lasted so long because, besides being a very talented actress, she’s just a wonderful person, clearly gorgeous, with a heart of gold. She’s a classy lady, and doesn’t get nearly the credit she deserves as an actress. She’s also an excellent cabaret performer—she’s got a great voice.”

For her part, Welch recalled, “I’d never liked being photographed… until I started working with Terry. He introduced me, at just the right time, to what I needed most: to interact with the lensman. But that doesn’t always work… unless O’Neill is behind the camera.” We at Iconic Images offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Raquel Welch.

Raquel Welch Collection


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