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Charles Lane Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (20) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 26 January 1905San Francisco, California, USA
Date of Death 9 July 2007Santa Monica, California, USA  (natural causes)
Birth NameCharles Gerstle Levison
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Mean, miserly and miserable-looking, they didn't come packaged with a more annoying and irksome bow than Charles Lane. Glimpsing even a bent smile from this unending sourpuss was extremely rare, unless one perhaps caught him in a moment of insidious glee after carrying out one of his many nefarious schemes. Certainly not a man's man on film or TV by any stretch, Lane was a character's character. An omnipresent face in hundreds of movies and TV sitcoms, the scrawny, scowling, beady-eyed, beak-nosed killjoy who usually could be found peering disdainfully over a pair of specs, brought out many a comic moment simply by dampening the spirit of his nemesis. Whether a Grinch-like rent collector, IRS agent, judge, doctor, salesman, reporter, inspector or neighbor from hell, Lane made a comfortable acting niche for himself making life wretched for someone somewhere.

He was born Charles Gerstle Levison on January 26, 1905 in San Francisco and was actually one of the last survivors of that city's famous 1906 earthquake. He started out his working-class existence selling insurance but that soon changed. After dabbling here and there in various theatre shows, he was prodded by a friend, director Irving Pichel, to consider acting as a profession. In 1928 he joined the Pasadena Playhouse company, which, at the time, had built up a solid reputation for training stage actors for the cinema. While there he performed in scores of classical and contemporary plays. He made his film debut anonymously as a hotel clerk in Smart Money (1931) starring Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney and was one of the first to join the Screen Actor's Guild. He typically performed many of his early atmospheric roles without screen credit and at a cost of $35 per day, but he always managed to seize the moment with whatever brief bit he happened to be in. People always remembered that face and raspy drone of a voice. He appeared in so many pictures (in 1933 alone he made 23 films!), that he would occasionally go out and treat himself to a movie only to find himself on screen, forgetting completely that he had done a role in the film. By 1947 the popular character actor was making $750 a week.

Among his scores of cookie-cutter crank roles, Lane was in top form as the stage manager in Twentieth Century (1934); the Internal Revenue Service agent in You Can't Take It with You (1938); the newsman in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939); the rent collector in It's a Wonderful Life (1946); the recurring role of Doc Jed Prouty, in the "Ellery Queen" film series of the 1940s, and as the draft board driver in No Time for Sergeants (1958). A minor mainstay for Frank Capra, the famed director utilized the actor's services for nine of his finest films, including a few of the aforementioned plus Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and State of the Union (1948).

Lane's career was interrupted for a time serving in the Coast Guard during WWII. In post-war years, he found TV quite welcoming, settling there as well for well over four decades. Practically every week during the 1950s and 1960s, one could find him displaying somewhere his patented "slow burn" on a popular sitcom - Topper (1953), The Real McCoys (1957), The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959), Mister Ed (1958), Bewitched (1964), Get Smart (1965), Gomer Pyle: USMC (1964), The Munsters (1964), Green Acres (1965), The Flying Nun (1967) and Maude (1972). He hassled the best sitcom stars of the day, notably Lucille Ball (an old friend from the RKO days with whom he worked multiple times), Andy Griffith and Danny Thomas. Recurring roles on Dennis the Menace (1959), The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) and Soap (1977) made him just as familiar to young and old alike. Tops on the list had to be his crusty railroad exec Homer Bedloe who periodically caused bucolic bedlam with his nefarious schemes to shut down the Hooterville Cannonball on Petticoat Junction (1963). He could also play it straightforward and serious as demonstrated by his work in The Twilight Zone (1959), Perry Mason (1957), Little House on the Prairie (1974) and L.A. Law (1986).

A benevolent gent in real life, Lane was seen less and less as time went by. One memorable role in his twilight years was as the rueful child pediatrician who chose to overlook the warning signs of child abuse in the excellent TV movie Sybil (1976). One of Lane's last on-screen roles was in the TV-movie remake of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1995) at age 90. Just before his death he was working on a documentary on his long career entitled "You Know the Face".

Cinematically speaking, perhaps the good ones do die young, for the irascible Lane lived to be 102 years old. He died peacefully at his Brentwood, California home, outliving his wife of 71 years, former actress Ruth Covell, who died in 2002. A daughter, a son and a granddaughter all survived him.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Ruth Ransom Covell (12 April 1931 - 30 November 2002) (her death) (2 children)

Trivia (20)

For prime displays of Lane's acting forte, one may see him as the stage manager (billed as "Charles Levison") in Howard Hawks' Twentieth Century (1934), in which he played with John Barrymore, or as the tax assessor in Frank Capra's You Can't Take It with You (1938), pitted against - coincidentally enough - Lionel Barrymore. Thus may one learn who ordinarily got the better (or the worst) of whom! Years later Lane would again star with Lionel in It's a Wonderful Life (1946), as mean Mr. Potter's rent collector.
Perhaps remembered as Homer Bedloe, the scheming railwayman in TV's Petticoat Junction (1963).
Made frequent guest appearances on I Love Lucy (1951) and The Lucy Show (1962), almost always playing some sort of unfriendly bureaucrat with no patience for Lucy's addle-brained schemes.
Was honored on March 16, 2005, at the TVLand Awards for his long career and his 100th birthday. When he received his award, he said in his still-booming voice, "In case anyone's interested, I'm still available!"
January 30th was named "Charles Lane Day" by the Screen Actors Guild in 2005.
One of the founders of the television academy, he was honored at the Emmy Awards in 2005, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, as being its oldest surviving member.
Starting on the stage in the late 1920s, he was a founding member of SAG at its first public meeting on October 8, 1933.
Began his acting career performing Chekhov, Shakespeare and Noel Coward at the Pasadena Playhouse during the 1930s.
Father of Tom Lane.
Survived by his son, Tom; his daughter, Alice; and granddaughter, Lucy.
One of the first actors to join Screen Actors Guild.
Despite being frequently cast as the perfect foil for Lucille Ball's scatterbrained TV character, he and Lucy were actually good friends. They met when she was a chorus girl and he worked in RKO musicals.
Among his most cherished possessions is a letter from director Frank Capra declaring, "Well, Charlie, you've been my No. 1 crutch." Capra cast him in 10 films.
He was one of the last survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Born to Alice G. and Jacob B. Levison.
Had lived in his Brentwood home from 1964 until his death.
On a short PBS interview about movies, the interviewer asked him if he had any regrets about the movies. He said that he never got to ride a horse in any of his performances. He told the interviewer he was an excellent horseman and had trained some of the western actors how to ride.
Played a client for McMahon and Tate on the television show Bewitched (1964) 8 times.
Animators on "The Simpsons" designed the blue-haired lawyer (who often represents Mr. Burns) to resemble him.
Charles Lane has appeared in The Donna Reed Show twice though it didn't include him in the credits after the show. It was Season 2 Episode 10; "All Mothers Worry"; released 11/15/1959.

Personal Quotes (3)

Having had so many small parts, there was a character I played that showed up all the time and people did get to know him, like an old friend.
[regarding the formation of the Screen Actors Guild] They'd [the studios] work you until midnight and get you back at seven in the morning. The actors were taking a terrible licking physically. Generally, as the case with any union, you form it because people are abused.
[Interview with Associated Press, 2005, about being typecast] You did something that was pretty good, and the picture was pretty good. That pedigreed you in that type of part, which I thought was stupid, and unfair, too. It didn't give me a chance, but it made casting easier for the studio.

Salary (1)

Thanksgiving (1951) $100

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