(December 8, 1899 – September 12, 1987) was a Canadian-American character actor
of Norwegian heritage who specialized in Scandinavian roles.
Qualen was born Johan Mandt Kvalen
, British Columbia
, the son of immigrants from Norway
; his father was a Lutheran
minister and changed the family's original surname, "Kvalen", to "Qualen". Qualen grew up in Elgin, Illinois
His acting career began when he was at Northwestern University
which he attended on a scholarship from having won an oratory contest. Eventually making it to Broadway
, he got his big break as the Swedish janitor in Elmer Rice
's Street Scene
. His movie career began when he recreated the role in the film version. This was followed by his appearance in John Ford
(1931) which began a more than thirty year membership in the director's "stock company"
, with important supporting roles in The Searchers
(1956), Two Rode Together
(1961) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
and Cheyenne Autumn
Appearing in well over one hundred films, and acting extensively on television into the 1970s, Qualen performed many of his roles with various accents, usually Scandinavian, often intended for comic effect. Three of his more memorable roles showcase his versatility. Qualen assumed a Midwestern dialect as Muley, who recounts the destruction of his farm by the bank in Ford's The Grapes of Wrath
, and as the confused killer Earl Williams in Howard......