John Qualen

John Qualen

87 (passed away Sep. 12th, 1987)
Dec. 8th, 1899
Born in
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
5' 7"

John Qualen's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
Yancy Derringer TV Show
Yancy Derringer
The Gale Storm Show TV Show
The Gale Storm Show
Tate TV Show
Stars Over Hollywood TV Show
Stars Over Hollywood

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


One of the best and most familiar character actors of the first four decades of sound films, although few who knew his face also knew his name. John Qualen was born in Canada to Norwegian parents. His father was a minister. The family moved to the United States and Qualen (whose real name was Kvalen) grew up in Elgin, Illinois. He won an oratory contest and was given a scholarship to Northwestern University. His interest in acting was piqued there, and he began appearing in tent shows on the Lyceum-Chautauqua circuit, and in stock. He went to New York in 1929 and got his big break as the Swedish janitor in Elmer Rice's Street Scene. He repeated the role two years later in the film version. That same year he first worked for director John Ford (I) in Arrowsmith (1931). He became a member of Ford's famed "stock company, and had prominent roles for Ford for the next thirty-five years. He became a most familiar character player, specializing in Scandinavians of various nationalities, but frequently playing a wide variety of other ethnicities. Perhaps his greatest work among many memorable roles was as the pitiful Muley, who recounts the destruction of his farm by the bank in Ford's masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Although plagued in his later years by failing eyesight, he continued to work steadily into his final years. He was treasurer of The Authors Club and historian of The Masquers, Hollywood's famed social group for actors. He had three children, Elizabeth, Kathleen, and Meredith. Qualen died in 1987.

  • He is often erroneously credited with the bit role of the bull owner in the 'Stan Laurel' (qv) and 'Oliver Hardy' (qv) film _The Devil's Brother (1933)_ (qv). However, it is clearly not him nor is it his voice.
  • Of Norwegian parentage.
  • In 1930, although working in New York, his home base was at 328 Sidney Street West, St. Paul, Minnesota.
  • Though some reference works list his birth name as Oleson or Olson, in actuality Qualen's grandfather changed the family name from Olson to Kvalen long before Qualen's birth. Qualen's father subsequently changed the name from Kvalen to Qualen, after Qualen's birth. Originally pronounced identically to the previous spelling ("Kvah-len"), John Qualen himself changed the pronunciation to "Kway-len."

Related sites for this celeb
You are successfully logged out.

ShareTV Login

Enter the text in the image shown if you are human.
WARNING: after 2 more failed attempts you will be locked out

Create Account

Verify Password

Verification code (check your email for the verification code)

Verification code has been sent to the following email address:
If you didn't receive the verification code:

1. Check your bulk/spam folder.

2. Try to whitelist our email address (

3. Resend verification email

If you mistyped your email address change it here
Create a free ShareTV account to make a personalized schedule of your favorite TV shows, keep track of what you've watched, earn points and more.
Verify your username and email to complete your Registration
Enter the text in the image shown if you are human.
WARNING: after 2 more failed attempts you will be locked out

Forgot Your Password?

Enter the email address you used to create the account and your password will be emailed to you.