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Overview for John Qualen
John Qualen

John Qualen

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Also Known As: John Oleson,John M. Qualen Died: September 12, 1987
Born: December 8, 1899 Cause of Death: heart failure
Birth Place: Vancouver, British Columbia, CA Profession: Cast ... actor musician
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BIOGRAPHY

John Qualen appeared in some of the greatest movies ever made, but his versatility allowed him to seem like a different man from picture to picture. He specialized in Scandinavians, but actually played various nationalities over the course of his career, which caught its first break in 1929 when he portrayed Carl Olsen, a Swedish janitor in the Broadway play "Street Scene." He recreated the part for a film version two years later, the first of a long line of different movies and accents. The same year as "Street Scene," he was in John Fordâ¿¿s "Arrowsmith," which started a lengthy collaboration with the director. For over 30 years, he belonged to Fordâ¿¿s stock company and appeared in some of his best-known films, often playing working-class men with ethnic names--Lars Jorgensen in "The Searchers," Axel Swanson in "The Long Voyage Home," Ericson in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"--and enunciations to go with them. His charactersâ¿¿ accents were sometimes intended for humorous effect; exceptions included Fordâ¿¿s 1940 adaptation of "The Grapes of Wrath," in which Qualen played the irrevocably broken Muley Graves. With a Midwestern twang, Graves told the story of farms being foreclosed and homes being destroyed. That unexpectedly haunting accent found its way into a comedy, too--Howard Hawksâ¿¿s 1940 "His Girl Friday," in which Qualen portrayed a convicted murderer. Another role he is widely remembered for is Victor Laszloâ¿¿s Resistance contact, Berger, in "Casablanca," whose Scandinavian accent fit the cosmopolitan setting perfectly.

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