Take five with Raquel Welch

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When Myra Breckinridge, Michael Sarne’s X-rated adaptation of Gore Vidal’s novel was released in 1970, it was greeted with unanimous raspberries: One critic called it “about as funny as a child molester.” Viewers can decide for themselves, but one thing is certain—the film had a particularly inspired cast, including Mae West, Rex Reed, John Huston and, in the title role, Raquel Welch. The chatty and charming Welch, 67, spoke with TONY from her home in Los Angeles about working on one of the most notorious films of the last 40 years.

Why did you take the role of Myra Breckinridge?
I had read Gore’s book, and it was one of those laugh-out-loud experiences where I felt he was analyzing American society and where this screen-goddess thing was leading us. The film would give me a chance to do a role that was much more literate. I suppose it was a crazy choice, but I was under contract to Fox and that was one of the projects available.

At the beginning of Myra there’s a clip from One Million Years B.C., the 1966 film in which you play a noble cave woman.
None of that was supposed to be in the original script. I think they had all the film clips to save the movie. What Gore was saying in his book never came across 100 percent, and I don’t know that it could have. But I don’t think there was any real attempt to make the narrative work. We had tremendous script problems. At one read-through at John Huston’s suite in the Bel Air, I went to the bathroom and had myself a little cry because there was another rewrite. John Huston knocked on the door and said, “Oh, my darling, it’s just a movie.”

What was it like working with Mae West?
I found her surreal. Here was this star from the ’30s who had this unbelievably different way of doing things. Now she’s doing this movie in 1969–70, and she’s never made a color movie before in her life.
I wouldn’t want to undertake that at 77. I thought, She’s got a lot of chutzpah and she’s completely bonkers. Mae was one of those people I always felt had a distinctly masculine vibration about her.
I have often ventured the opinion that she was a man in drag. [Laughs]

A large part of both the book and the film concerns the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age. Does this glamour still exist?

Every age has its glamour. But there’s a very different sensibility today. At the Academy Awards, as beautiful as these current actresses are, they all seem to be so fashion-scared that none of them dresses in a way that is distinctly her own. You almost long for the mistakes that went on earlier. Too perfect is not interesting. One tends to long for Cher, with her Mohawk feather thing sticking out of her head—just because she had the chutzpah to be herself.

Author: Melissa Anderson

Issue 649: March 6-12, 2008



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1 comments
Egmont Sippel
Egmont Sippel

A couple of good and insightful comments by Raquel. But she made one mistake: "Too perfect is not interesting," she says. Well, SHE is perfect, and STILL interesting, STILL the most beautiful woman in the world! By far! Love you, Raquel. Love you, love you, love you! Forever!



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