Written By: Eliza Berman
Raquel Welch became famous as the star of such movies as Fantastic Voyage (1966) and One Million Years B.C. (also 1966). When LIFE Magazine profiled Raquel Welch in 1972, she was donning roller skates for a new role. According to LIFE, the actress, who died on February 15, 2023 at age 82, was the “hottest thing on wheels,” throwing elbows and sustaining multiple injuries while filming the roller derby flick Kansas City Bomber.
The film, in which Welch plays a hardened derby star and single mother to a young Jodi Foster, may not have been a critical success, but Welch still believes it had something important to say. In a 2012 interview with GQ, when the Film Society of Lincoln Center was celebrating her body of work, Welch reflected on Kansas City Bomber“s depiction of gender relations in the early 1970s. “You have all those women out there, but the men in the front office are really running it,” she said of the roller derby world depicted in the film. “Which I thought was a really nice metaphor for the way a lot of women felt about their lives at that time.”
In her later years Welch stepped back from acting to focus on charity work and family time. She also cautioned against the superficiality of the sex symbol status she held, and the assumptions people tend to make. “I felt like people had me on a pedestal, and they didn’t know there was this other person,” she told the AARP, talking about the image that helped make her a star, of her in a bikini in the poster for the 1966 movie One Million Years B.C.. “They saw the poster but they didn’t really know the story behind it.”
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.