|Subject: Archive: July 9, 2007 ~Actor Charles Lane dies ...
Next Thread |
Previous Thread |
Next Message |
Date Posted: Sunday, July 09, 08:00:46pm
Charles Lane, Hollywood Character Actor, Dies at 102. ...
By ROBERT BERKVIS
JULY 11, 2007
Charles Lane, a veteran character actor whose lean frame and stern features were familiar to millions of movie and television fans, most of whom, it is safe to say, never knew his name, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 102.
His death was announced by his son, Tom, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Lane was busily employed from the 1930s to the ’90s, playing hotel clerks, cashiers, reporters, lawyers, judges, tax collectors, mean-spirited businessmen, the powerful as well as the nondescript. Sometimes he was little more than a face in the crowd, with only a line or two of dialogue, which made it easy for him to trot from one movie set to another and rack up two or three film credits in a single day. He appeared in hundreds of comedies, dramas, gangster flicks and musicals, ranging from “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938) and “Tarzan’s New York Adventure” (1942) to “Mighty Joe Young” (1949) and “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” (1963).
Some directors sought him out. He appeared in no fewer than nine films directed by Frank Capra, including “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
It was Mr. Capra who cast him as the income tax collector in “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938), which Mr. Lane said was his favorite role.
His bony physique, craggy face and the authoritarian or supercilious way he would peer through his spectacles at his fellow actors eventually led to his being typecast and locked into playing a succession of lawyers, judges, assorted lawmen and other abrasive roles. It was, he said in an interview, “stupid and unfair” to be called upon to play the same kinds of roles over and over again.
Mr. Lane at home in Los Angeles shortly before his 100th birthday. Credit Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press, 2005
“It didn’t give me a chance,” he said. But, he added, “it made the casting easier for the studio.”
He was not alone in the typecast colony of Hollywood curmudgeons, who included familiar faces but relatively unknown names like Byron Foulger, Chester Clute, Charles Halton, Howland Chamberlin and Percy Helton. But no one made more movies, though even he may not have not been sure of the exact total. In 1933 alone, he made 23, and from then through 1947 he appeared in at least 200 more.
His career was interrupted by World War II, and his fellow crew members on an attack transport would amuse themselves by running and re-running one of his movies.
During his heyday, and Hollywood’s, he would work from 9 to 5 at whatever studio he was booked for (he worked for many if not all of them), and then he would depart promptly for Pasadena, where his wife and two children waited.
Mr. Lane’s wife, the former Ruth Covell, whom he married in 1932, died in 2002. In addition to his son, his survivors include a daughter, Alice Deane; and a grandchild.
Mr. Lane routinely forgot the names of the movies in which he appeared.
“When I get in the car, turn the switch and start home, I forget all about them,” he told The New York Times in 1947. On at least one occasion, he was quite astonished to see himself turn up in a movie he had paid good money to see. And as one of the first members of the Screen Actors Guild, he made good money, for the times. His salary in 1947 was $750 a week.
He was so omnipresent and so much the representative of his type, whatever that was, that people would come up to him in the street and greet him, because they thought they knew him from their hometowns.
Charles Gerstle Levison was born on Jan. 26, 1905, in San Francisco. He was working as an insurance salesman when a friend persuaded him to try his hand at acting. He joined the Pasadena Playhouse and soon moved on the Hollywood, where one of his early appearances, uncredited, was as a hotel desk clerk in “Smart Money” (1931), which starred Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney.
Starting in the 1950s, Mr. Lane also became a familiar presence on television. Over the years, he made guest appearances on series like “Perry Mason,” “The Twilight Zone” and “The Munsters.” He had recurring roles as a crafty landlord on “The Beverly Hillbillies” and a penny-pinching railroad executive on “Petticoat Junction”
He met Lucille Ball when she was still an RKO chorus girl, and the two became friends. Years later he was a frequent guest on “I Love Lucy” and appeared in one of that series’s most-watched episodes, the birth of Little Ricky, in 1953. As Lucy’s husband, Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), anxiously waits outside the maternity ward for news, Mr. Lane, as another expectant father, confides that he already has six daughters. The nurse announces that his wife has just given birth to three more. Mr. Lane marches grimly from the room, muttering only two words: “Nine girls!”
Mr. Lane continued working well into his 80s. His last appearance in a feature film found him playing a priest with a taste for marijuana in “Date With an Angel” (1987). He bid farewell to television in 1995, when he appeared in a remake of the 1970 Disney film comedy “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.”
He never lost his enthusiasm. In 2005, when friends and industry admirers gathered to celebrate his 100th birthday, he accepted their plaudits from a wheelchair and declared, “If you’re interested, I’m still available.
Next Thread |
Previous Thread |
Next Message |