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John Quade dies at 71; character actor specialized in playing heavies
John Quade, a veteran character actor who specialized in playing heavies and appeared in several Clint Eastwood movies, including "Every Which Way But Loose" and its sequel "Any Which Way You Can," has died. He was 71.
Quade died in his sleep of natural causes Sunday at his home in Rosamond, near Lancaster, said his wife, Gwen Saunders. In a more than two-decade career in films and television that began in the late 1960s, Quade played character roles in numerous TV series and in films such as "Papillon," "The Sting" and Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales." He also played Sheriff Biggs in the 1977 TV miniseries "Roots."
"Everybody remembers him for 'Every Which Way But Loose' and 'Any Which Way You Can,' " Quade's wife said Wednesday. "He played Chola, the leader of the motorcycle gang. It was more of a comic relief of the movie; they were a bumbling motorcycle gang."
Although Quade's name might not be familiar to many moviegoers, his face was. In fact, he had a face made for playing heavies.
"He was one of the nicest men you'd ever want to know, but he looked mean and nasty," his wife said. "He looked like he could do murder and mayhem at any moment, but he was a big teddy bear -- the kind that he just loved little kids, but they were always afraid of him.
"His face definitely stands out in a crowd. He had to be careful he didn't overshadow scenes just by the way he looked. The first film he did with Clint Eastwood, Clint hired him for his face and told him afterward that he felt like he got a bonus because John could act."
Born John William Saunders III on April 1, 1938, in Kansas City, Kan., Quade arrived in California in 1964. "He got involved in missile and aerospace for awhile," said his wife. "He built parts that are still on the moon."
One day, she said, "He was sitting in a restaurant with a bunch of guys and this man noticed him and said, 'Have you thought about acting?'
"It had to be his face; it wasn't anything else."
Quade was appearing in a play in Hollywood in 1968 when a casting director saw him and cast him in his first TV show, an episode of "Bonanza."
In addition to his wife of 38 years, he is survived by six children, John Saunders IV, Joseph Saunders, Steven Saunders, Heather Clark, Katherine Adame and Rebecca Saunders; his mother, Norma; two brothers, Merlin and Robert; two sisters, Joyce Copeland and Norma Jean Anderson; and 10 grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Joshua Memorial Park and Mortuary, 808 E. Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster.