Ragnar Qvale, former actor and prominent architect who designed the original Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas and many prominent L.A. area buildings, died Sept. 20 of a cerebral hemorrhage in his home in Dana Point. He was 86.
Born in Norway, he immigrated to Seattle with his family at 13, studied architecture at the U. of Washington, and joined its competitive ski team. While working as a ski instructor in Sun Valley in late 1939, he taught movie mogul Darryl Zanuck, who brought Qvale to Hollywood for a screen test and signed him as a $75-a-week contract player at 20th Century Fox.
Qvale ironically won his first role, as a Nazi officer in the war drama “Four Sons,” the same day the German army entered his native Norway.
Qvale also appeared in the Sonja Henie picture “Sun Valley Serenade” and a few other films before World War II cut his fledgling acting career short. After serving four years as a pilot, he returned to L.A. and, rather than resume acting, pursued his first love of architecture, establishing the architectural firm of Ragnar C. Qvale and Associates as well as Q.A. Architectural Arts, a firm that made watercolor renderings of buildings from blueprints.
He also became a noted building preservationist.
Qvale is survived by wife Mollie, three sons, a daughter and four grandchildren.