YOU KNOW THE FACE: CHARLES LANE

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.

 

With Edward G. Robinson

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.

 

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN

 

With Ginger Rogers. THE PRIMROSE PATH.

(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 Lionel Barrymore, Dub Taylor. YOU CANT TAKE IT WITH YOU.

 

 

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.

With Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

 

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!

 

15 responses »

  1. Such an interesting read, and what he said about Gable with whom he was in “Teacher’s Pet” – which I’ve always thought to be perhaps Gable’s best, alongside a few other of his later films in which I felt he was better than in his even more famous ones of the 30s. – Greg

      • I wonder if Lane was referring to it when he mentioned Gable’s underrating his own performance. Another great scene soon after, was Gable in “The Misfits” getting to know Thelma Ritter with her “rye an’ wahduh”: the way she handles her glass during that conversation is a master class in acting, in itself!

  2. Another great character player is Byron Foulger who crops up in dozens of films. He was married to Dorothy Adams whom I always remember as Gene Tierneys maid in Laura.

  3. Vienna, I really enjoyed your good write-up on the “GREAT” character actor Charles Lane. Lane is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve always enjoyed seeing him in movies and television. I first remember seeing him on television’s PETTICOAT JUNCTION(1963-70) portraying Homer Bedloe, the railroad executive who was always trying to find a way to shut down the Hooterville to Pixley railroad spur. Lane’s acting performances were always vivid and memorable, regardless of the screen time he had.

    • Hi Walter. Glad you’re a fan too. Charles was one of the most prolific performers on television. I haven’t seen Petticoat Junction but will have a look on You Tube.

    • Just a pity character folk like Charles didn’t write their stories about life in the Hollywood studios, or at least do extensive interviews in their later years.

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