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Hollywood star and sex symbol Raquel Welch dies at 82

Welch, known for films such as “Fantastic Voyage” and “One Million Years B.C.,” died after a brief illness.
/ Source: TODAY

Raquel Welch, one of Hollywood's most enduring and beloved sex symbols, has died.

The "Fantastic Voyage" star passed away at age 82 early Wednesday morning after a brief illness, a spokesperson for the actor's management company confirmed in a statement to NBC News.

Admired for her long auburn hair, smoldering beauty and curvy shape, Welch starred in dozens of movies and appeared frequently in guest-starring roles on TV.

Raquel Welch at the Mercedes-Benz Presents The Carousel Of Hope Ball Benefitting The Barbara Davis Center For Diabetes
Raquel Welch in 2014.Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz

Born in Chicago, Welch shot to stardom in her 20s after appearing in two 1966 B-movies: “Fantastic Voyage” and “One Million Years B.C.” In the latter movie, Welch played a prehistoric woman, frolicking on screen in a skimpy deerskin bikini that would become iconic in posters seen around the world.

Welch in her skimpy prehistoric woman outfit.
Welch in her skimpy prehistoric woman outfit. Ronald Grant via Everett Collection

In 1970, Welch broke ground at the time by playing a transgender woman in the racy Hollywood adaptation of Gore Vidal’s controversial novel “Myra Breckinridge.”

She won critical acclaim for 1973’s swashbuckling “The Three Musketeers,” earning a Golden Globe for her role as the alluring Constance de Bonacieux.

LEGALLY BLONDE, Raquel Welch, 2001.
Welch had a memorable role as the ex-wife of a murdered man in 2001's "Legally Blonde."Everett Collection

Decades later, the still-gorgeous Welch, who famously never took her bombshell image seriously, made fans laugh in the 1994 Leslie Nielsen comedy “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult,” and in a hilarious courtroom scene in 2001’s “Legally Blonde.”

Welch got her start in television, appearing in small roles on “Bewitched” and “McHale’s Navy,” among other programs.

Welch with Leslie Nielsen in the 1994 comedy “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult."
Welch with Leslie Nielsen in the 1994 comedy “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult."Everett Collection

By the 1970s, she was a celebrated TV guest star, spoofing her sex symbol status for laughs on “Mork & Mindy,” and later, showing off her dramatic side in 1995 on “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”

Welch, who married four times throughout her life, is survived by her two children, son Damon Welch and daughter Tahnee Welch.