I found an 8 minute interview with character actor Charles Lane on You Tube. He was 77 when he appeared on the David Letterman Show in 1982. One could have wished it was longer and conducted by Eddie Muller or Leonard Maltin who would have delved into his many Hollywood roles.
This man had a terrific career – in Hollywood from 1928 and wisely getting into television from the 1950s when film roles dried up. He was generally typecast in films as mean, miserly, bureaucratic , and the label stuck.
His first movie was SMART MONEY (1931), starring Edward G. Robinson,James Cagney. He was in so many classic films such as BALL OF FIRE! NOTHING SACRED, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN.
What tales he must have to tell, being on the set with the top stars and directors.
As he said in the interview,
……The age old problem that we’re all faced with in Hollywood – typecasting.”
But he also said later, “If you have a type established and you’re any good, it can mean considerable work for you.”
But Mr.Lane was never out of work. He commented:
“When I started at Warner Brothers, my salary was $35 a day. I’d go over to Stage 26 at 11 o’clock and play an elevator operator with four lines, and do another one at 3 o’clock, then I’d go over to Stage 13 and do a taxi driver for four lines.
I’d do three pictures in one day, all for the same $35. That was before we had the Screen Actors Guild.”
Charles did mention Clark Gable,
“One of my favourites. He was a lovely, lovely man and I think of him with great affection.”
With Clark Gable. TEACHER’S PET.
(Several years ago, there was talk of a documentary about Charles , to be called “YOU KNOW THE FACE. I wish it had been completed.)
Colorised still from IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. He’s the rent collector who stands up to ‘Mr. Potter.’
Charles was a popular choice for Frank Capra and appeared in several Capra films.
Charles, far left, escaping a punch from James Stewart in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.
With Bette Garde ( the one and only ‘Wanda Skutnick’) In CALL NORTHSIDE 777.
Looking at his credits on IMDB, he appeared in 24 films in 1940, and 22 in 1942!
He was friends with Lucille Ball and guest starred in her TV show several times.
A smiling Charles Lane, with William Frawley in I LOVE LUCY.
His last feature film was “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” in 1995.
Honoured by the American Cinemateque, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica in 2005, Charles ruefully said it was the first time his name appeared on a theatre marquee.
- Charles was also celebrated for his hundreds of TV roles at the TV Land Awards in 2005, on his 100th birthday. In a still wonderfully clear voice, he said, “If you’re interested, I’m still available!”
He was one of the first members of the Screen Actors Guild. He was married in 1931 until his wife’s death in 2002. He died, aged 102, in 2007.
Charles and his wife, Ruth.
The Screen Actors Guild paid tribute to Charles in 2007, celebrating a life of more than 60 years in the acting business.
Charles Lane is one of the many wonderful character actors who thrived in vintage Hollywood. Casting directors knew they would get a thoroughly professional performance .
Just a pity, like many others, he wasn’t given the chance to show his considerable acting talent in bigger roles.
On the other hand, I think he was happy to do his work and then get home to his family in Pasadena – and indulge in his favourite pastime, golf.
Oh, and he regretted not being in a western , since he was a good horseman!