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Home Classic Movies Raquel Welch: Myra Breckinridge + Mae West Remembered

Raquel Welch quotes Myra BreckinridgeRaquel Welch quotes on Mae West: A few years ago, Raquel Welch reminisced about Mae West (photo), with whom she co-starred in 20th Century Fox’s 1970 epic disaster Myra Breckinridge.
“I found her surreal,” Welch recalled. “Here was this star from the 1930s 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]”

The Raquel Welch quotes are found in the May 2008 issue of Time Out New York, as part of an interview conducted by Melissa Anderson.

Mae West comeback

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Based on a (literally) gender-bending Gore Vidal novel, Myra Breckinridge featured Welch in the title role, film reviewer Rex Reed as Myron (who becomes Myra / Raquel Welch after a sex-change operation), veteran director / screenwriter John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen), and 1930s Paramount star Mae West (I’m No Angel, She Done Him Wrong), making her movie comeback after 27 years away from the camera.

Also in the Myra Breckinridge cast: handsome newcomer Roger Herren, and pretty newcomer Farrah Fawcett, in addition to veterans John Carradine, Andy Devine, Kathleen Freeman, and Jim Backus, and, in bit part, Tom Selleck. Found on numerous “Worst Movies Ever Made” lists, Myra Breckinridge was directed by former pop singer and film critic Michael Sarne.

I recall reading a while back that former Fox star Loretta Young (Man’s Castle / Three Blind Mice) sued her old studio in order to have film clips featuring her removed from the Myra Breckinridge release print – which is peppered with old-movie bits. The reason for (the very Catholic) Young’s reticence was that her particular clips were interspersed with scenes of, if I remember correctly, masturbation. Who was masturbating whom, I don’t know, but in any case, if I’m not misremembering anything, Young won her suit and the clips were taken out.

Michael Sarne, Raquel Welch post-Myra Breckinridge career & the Prometheus connection

Another Michael Sarne directorial film credit is Joanna (1968), a Swinging London tale starring Geneviève Waïte that was well-received in some quarters. Sarne’s directorial career, however, never recovered from the Myra Breckinridge debacle. As an actor, Sarne could be recently seen in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises and heard (as the voice of Karla) in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Raquel Welch’s once-promising film career also stalled in the ’70s. Apart from Richard Lester’s successful all-star ensemble The Three Musketeers and James Ivory’s underrated The Wild Party, Welch’s movies of that decade were minor fare.

Among those were Hannie Caulder, with Robert Culp and Ernest Borgnine; Fuzz, with Burt Reynolds; Kansas City Bomber, with Kevin McCarthy; Bluebeard, with Richard Burton in the title role; and L’Animal, with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Raquel Welch retired from films in the late ’70s, returning only sporadically in the last 15 years (Chairman of the Board, Legally Blonde). Away from Hollywood, Welch had a major Broadway hit with Woman of the Year in the early ’80s.

Mae West, for her part, would make only one more movie after Myra Breckinridge. That was Ken Hughes’ Sextette (1978), a critical and box office bomb that has become a camp classic of sorts. Mae West died in 1980.

Now, one top talent that managed to survive the Myra Breckinridge disaster was producer / co-screenwriter David Giler, who went on to co-write Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View, starring Warren Beatty; the hit comedy Fun with Dick and Jane, with Jane Fonda and George Segal; and the story for James Cameron’s Aliens, which earned Sigourney Weaver a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Giler resumed his production duties with Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979. Among his other big-screen credits in that field are Alien: Resurrection, Alien vs. Predator and the big-budget sci-fier currently on screens all over the world, Prometheus.

Note: “Raquel Welch Quotes: MYRA BRECKINRIDGE / Mae West” is an expanded, updated version of an article initially posted in May 2008.

Raquel Welch picture: Myra Breckinridge publicity photo / 20th Century Fox.

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Zane -


it remains all about Mae and nothing about Raquel! Bitterly realistic as it is factual, Welsh never mattered; West always did. Mae did what she wanted and got what she wanted…the good, the bad and the lovely in-between!

Bodies like Welsh are a dime a dozen, with the exception of Monroe! Characters like West are unique and singular. West understood the punch-line and how and when to deliver it and to whom. She was punctual and expeditious without stumble. She was tart but never crude!

Mark Christian Defazio -

I knew Mae West for years and kept in contact with her until her death in 1980 – she also did a water commercial for my tiny town of Poland Springs just before her death; and I met Rex Reed here in Maine a few times in the 70’s. I liked him very much as he is an excellent film critic and I was led to this link by accident and read the comments. I was actually looking for more recent info on Raquel Welch as I have always admired her so much as an actress and as a true SURVIVOR in Hollywood over the decades. I think Myra Breckinridge could have been a hugely successful film had it been made later, had a different director ( where they found Sarne is still beyond me ) and had Raquel Welch and Rex Reed now playing their original roles and Jessica Simpson playing Mae West’s role as Leticia! It’s a shame that Gore Vidal’s great visionary novel was turned into such a mess on film by Michael Sarne because all the actors involved wanted to make it revolutionary ( 1969 ). Further, according to Mae West telling me personally, word of her being sniped on the set and in the press by both Rex Reed and Raquel Welch and others ( John Huston – her dear friend – not being one of them ) – led her to be defensive and to use her power of ” My Earned / Rightful Hollywood Movie Queen Status ” to retaliate. Today, this is an absolute NO NO when a star plugs a film on TV and in the press –
to dish a fellow star – no matter how they feel. Mae West WAS the QUEEN of Hollywood for decades and did whatever it took to guard her status and always with great success. It was a different era. I absolutely loved her and I also love Raquel Welch – who had to fight her way through decades of a different Hollywood makeup to show she was far more than a beautiful face and body. She is so talented and a very sharp woman and will be 70 soon ( looking like a very hot 40 without all the garbage ). God bless her and I hope she gets the role of her life in her 70’s ! I love you Raquel ! Dr. Mark Christian Defazio

ed kirsch -

hi, i would like to know where i can get some pictures of Mae West. im going to dress up as her for a costume party. thank you,ed kirsch

Jocelyne -

Where can we buy a poster of this pose of Raquel Welch with the american flag allfit. thanks.

Rich -

Many “Myra” fans are still hoping that someday, someway, somehow more will emerge about Roger Herren, the handsome young man who was the boyfriend of Farrah Fawcett’s character in the film. Anyone have any insights for us?

Andre -

“Myra Breckenridge” is available on DVD. And yes, you are allowed to fast forward through the Rex Reed scenes.


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