Charles Lane: You Knew the Face
July 10, 2007 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Charles Lane (1905-2007), a character actor since 1931, and one of Hollywood's most recognizable "that guys". Over 350 credits from "It's a Wonderful Life" to "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" to "Petticoat Junction" and a half-dozen different characters on "I Love Lucy". Founding member of the Screen Actors guild, and more, but I'll let Mark Evanier tell you some stories. Here's his 100th Birthday party, and one of his few YouTube clips shows him as Ginger Rodger's 'customer' in "Primrose Path".
posted by wendell (19 comments total)
Well, shucks. I've always liked him--I'm a great admirer of that sort of solid, quiet character work. I remember seeing him first as a reporter in "Arsenic and Old Lace."
posted by EarBucket at 6:21 PM on July 10, 2007

I loved that guy. He was always good on Bewitched, too.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:33 PM on July 10, 2007

Funny, I looked him up the other day. Sure enough, he did play Mr. Finch the druggist on Dennis the Menace. Prolific.
posted by dr_dank at 6:34 PM on July 10, 2007

Good to know that his legacy will continue through the love child he had with Roy Cohn.
posted by Iridic at 6:37 PM on July 10, 2007

he lived to be 102 years old and smoked cigarettes for 70 years!
posted by brandz at 6:43 PM on July 10, 2007

Just last Sunday Mr. Adams and I watched a TiVo'd episode of I Love Lucy which featured Charles Lane as a cranky passport agent. We looked him up on IMdB and marveled that he was still alive (heck, he looked 102 in the 1950s!) No one could play a curmudgeon better than Mr. Lane. RIP.
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:15 PM on July 10, 2007

posted by Joey Michaels at 7:34 PM on July 10, 2007

Hardest working man in show business. 102 years is an exceptional run. Thank you, Mr. Lane.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:47 PM on July 10, 2007

"[being typecast is] a pain in the ass! You did something that was pretty good, and the picture was pretty good. But that pedigreed you into that type of part, which I thought was stupid and unfair... but it made the casting easier for the studio..." - Charles Lane

Oh my. I didn't know he was still alive. Now that he's gone, it's like losing an uncle.

Mister Lane was one of the first people to join the Screen Actors Guild when it first began. Whether or not one likes the politics of that thing today, it paved the way for proper monetary compensation for talent in Hollywood. He didn't start it but he helped make that happen, ending much of the unfair business practices being done to starry eyed talent in the early days of talkies.

He was a living, walking, breathing fixture of everything film, television, and stage was all about, and now he's not, but what a legacy to leave behind. He had a singular talent of displaying a puckered up soured face while revealing a heart of pure gold. He had the crotchety old man steretype down to a science. One of the best character actors of the twentieth century, and that was just a slice of what he had to offer. So disappointing that it was rare the casting directors allowed him outside that mold.

Lots of laughter this man has wrought: one could have far more said on his epitaph and it mean far less.

No bit parts. Only bit players. He lived that! He embodied that. He was that. That pumped through his blood and oozed out his pores.

With maximum possible respect.

posted by ZachsMind at 8:05 PM on July 10, 2007


posted by ZachsMind at 8:13 PM on July 10, 2007

When I was a kid he was the guy that made me want to be a crotchety old man. It seems like he was in every syndicated show I watched growing up.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:16 PM on July 10, 2007

From the contents section of Mr. Lane's wikipedia entry:

2 Filmography
2.1 2000s
2.2 1990s
2.3 1980s
2.4 1970s
2.5 1960s
2.6 1950s
2.7 1940s
2.8 1930s

Eight decades. Awesome.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:27 PM on July 10, 2007

I loved him in that ... one thing.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:37 PM on July 10, 2007

Mark Evanier's compendious knowledge of every tiny figure in Hollywood astounds me.
posted by painquale at 12:17 AM on July 11, 2007

Take a look at Charles Lane here if you're still wondering who he is (about midway down the page). If anyone had asked me, I would have guessed he had died in the late 60's. He looked ancient then -- maybe moreso to my younger eyes. Wonderful character actor. I never knew his name either.
posted by RavinDave at 2:05 AM on July 11, 2007

Reineman: Look, Mr. Potter, it's no skin off my nose. I'm just your little rent collector. But you can't laugh off this Bailey Park any more. Look at it...Fifteen years ago, a half-dozen houses stuck here and there. There's the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Used to hunt rabbits there myself. Look at it today. Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety percent owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you. Your Potter's Field, my dear Mr. Employer, is becoming just that. And are the local yokels making with those David and Goliath wisecracks!
posted by alamo1234 at 2:48 AM on July 11, 2007

Oh my. I didn't know he was still alive.

Ditto that. I figured he HAD to be dead by now. Wow.

Mark Evanier's compendious knowledge of every tiny figure in Hollywood astounds me.

Ditto that, too. Mark Evanier is a treasure himself.
posted by briank at 8:23 AM on July 11, 2007

I loved this guy! For years, he was playing the stereotypical old man - Lucy, The Odd Couple, St. Elsewhere.

And alamo1234, the end of that monologue was the best... "Some day this young man will be working for George Bailey".
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2007

No one could play a curmudgeon better than Mr. Lane. RIP.

Exactly. What a guy. IMDB also says that he was married 71 years (until his wife died in 2002), and he survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:42 AM on July 11, 2007

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