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Charles Lane

Charles LaneAKA Charles Gerstle Levison

Born: 26-Jan-1905
Birthplace: San Francisco, CA
Died: 9-Jul-2007
Location of death: Brentwood, CA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Home of Peace Cemetery, Colma, CA

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Grumpy character actor

Charles Lane was a skinny, craggy-faced character actor who typically portrayed grumpy neighbors, tightwads, and cold-hearted hotel clerks. In his most famous roles, he worked with director Frank Capra, as Old Man Potter's rent collector in It's A Wonderful Life, as the IRS agent who dogged tax-resister Lionel Barrymore in You Can't Take It With You, and as the reporter who annoyed Jimmy Stewart's idealistic senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Lane started out as an insurance salesman, until an acquaintance, film director Irving Pichel (Destination Moon), suggested he try acting. Lane, then in his 20s, began performing with the Pasadena Playhouse, and landed his first tiny film role as a desk clerk in 1931's Smart Money. Sharp-eyed viewers can spot an uncredited Lane deep in the background in such early talkies as Employees' Entrance and 42nd Street. His first credited role was as a cashier in 1933's Blondie Johnson. Lane drew good reviews for his work in screwball comedies like Twentieth Century or It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, deadly noir like I Wake Up Screaming, or even amidst the singing and dancing of The Music Man.

For decades, Lane was also a familiar presence on television. In the 1950s short-lived Dear Phoebe, he played a newspaperman, editing Peter Lawford's advice column. He was briefly a regular on The Lucy Show, and on Phyllis Diller's quickly-cancelled 1966 sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton. He often appeared on Walter Brennan's The Real McCoys.

Lane had more success guesting on episodic TV. In the episode of I Love Lucy where Lucille Ball gave birth, Lane played a character he described as "this old guy who is expecting his 10th child or something", in the waiting room with pacing, nervous father-to-be Desi Arnaz. Lane appeared on several other episodes of I Love Lucy, playing different harried or put-upon characters. On Bewitched, he made at least eight guest appearances, but never played the same character twice. On Petticoat Junction, he played the cost-cutting railroad executive who tried to eliminate Hooterville's train service. On Dennis the Menace, he was Mr. Finch, the old man who ran the drug store. On Soap, he had a recurring role as Judge Petrillo. On The Beverly Hillbillies, he played Nancy Kulp's untrustworthy landlord.

All told, Lane appeared in more than 150 films and hundreds of television shows. On his busiest days, Lane said he sometimes played more than one role -- getting into costume and filming his two or three lines on one set, then hurrying off to another set for a different costume and a different role. Despite his stern, hardhearted demeanor in films and television, friends and acquaintances unanimously described Lane as warm, funny, and kind. He was never arrested, never fodder for the Hollywood press. He was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933.

His last film was Date With An Angel in 1987. His last TV performance was in the 1995 remake of Disney's The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. His last professional appearance was a pre-recorded segment in a 2005 TV Land tribute, celebrating his 100th birthday.

In 1990, Lane was rushed to the hospital, having difficulty breathing. A doctor asked if he was still smoking, and Lane replied that he had kicked the habit 45 minutes earlier. He never smoked again.

Pichel, the moviemaker who first suggested that Lane go into acting, made the same suggestion many years later to Natalie Wood.

Wife: Ruth Covell Lane (m. 12-Apr-1931, d. 30-Nov-2002, one son, one daughter)
Son: Thomas Lane
Daughter: Alice Deane

    Risk Factors: Former Smoker

    TELEVISION
    Soap Judge Petrillo (1978)
    Karen Dale Busch (1975)
    The Beverly Hillbillies Foster Phinney (1971)
    The Pruitts of Southampton Maxwell (1966-67)
    Petticoat Junction Homer Bedloe (1963-68)
    Dennis the Menace Mr. Finch (1960-62)
    Dear Phoebe Mr. Fosdick (1954-55)

    FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
    The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (18-Feb-1995)
    Acting on Impulse (10-Jul-1993)
    Date with an Angel (20-Nov-1987)
    When the Bough Breaks (12-Oct-1986)
    Murphy's Romance (25-Dec-1985) · Amos Abbott
    Strange Invaders (16-Sep-1983)
    Strange Behavior (16-Oct-1981)
    The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (6-Oct-1981)
    The Little Dragons (Sep-1979)
    Movie Movie (Nov-1978)
    Sybil (14-Nov-1976)
    Get to Know Your Rabbit (Jun-1972)
    The Aristocats (11-Dec-1970) [VOICE]
    Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (14-Jul-1968)
    What's So Bad About Feeling Good? (17-May-1968)
    The Gnome-Mobile (12-Jul-1967)
    The Ugly Dachshund (4-Feb-1966) · Judge
    The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (20-Jan-1966) · Whitlow
    Billie (15-Sep-1965)
    John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (24-Mar-1965)
    Looking for Love (5-Aug-1964)
    Good Neighbor Sam (22-Jul-1964) · Jack Bailey
    The New Interns (1-Jun-1964)
    The Carpetbaggers (9-Apr-1964)
    It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (7-Nov-1963) · Airport Manager
    Papa's Delicate Condition (6-Mar-1963)
    The Music Man (19-Jun-1962) · Constable Locke
    But Not For Me (19-Aug-1959) · Atwood
    The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (6-Aug-1959) · Standard Bates
    The Mating Game (29-Apr-1959) · Bigelow
    Teacher's Pet (1-Apr-1958)
    Top Secret Affair (30-Jan-1957) · Bill Hadley
    The Birds and the Bees (22-Apr-1956)
    The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (14-Aug-1953)
    Remains to be Seen (15-May-1953)
    The Juggler (5-May-1953) · Rosenberg
    The Second Face (1-Dec-1950)
    Riding High (12-Apr-1950)
    Moonrise (1-Oct-1948)
    State of the Union (30-Apr-1948) · Blink Moran
    Intrigue (6-Dec-1947)
    The Farmer's Daughter (25-Mar-1947) · Jackson
    It's a Wonderful Life (20-Dec-1946) · Rent collector
    Mysterious Intruder (11-Apr-1946) · Det. Burns
    Arsenic and Old Lace (23-Sep-1944) · Reporter
    Friendly Enemies (21-Jun-1942)
    Tarzan's New York Adventure (May-1942) · Gould Beaton
    Home in Wyomin' (29-Apr-1942) · Editor
    About Face (16-Apr-1942)
    The Lady Is Willing (17-Feb-1942)
    Obliging Young Lady (30-Jan-1942) · Detective
    A Gentleman at Heart (16-Jan-1942) · Holloway
    Sealed Lips (2-Jan-1942)
    Ball of Fire (2-Dec-1941) · Larsen
    I Wake Up Screaming (14-Nov-1941) · Florist
    Sis Hopkins (12-Apr-1941)
    Repent at Leisure (4-Apr-1941)
    The Invisible Woman (27-Dec-1940) · Growley
    Ellery Queen, Master Detective (28-Nov-1940)
    The Great Profile (30-Aug-1940)
    Rhythm on the River (28-Aug-1940)
    We Who Are Young (19-Jul-1940) · Perkins
    Buck Benny Rides Again (24-Apr-1940)
    Johnny Apollo (15-Mar-1940) · Assistant DA
    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (17-Oct-1939) · Nosey
    Second Fiddle (30-Jun-1939) · Voice of Chief [VOICE]
    Boy Slaves (2-Feb-1939)
    Kentucky (24-Dec-1938) · Auctioneer
    Thanks for Everything (23-Dec-1938)
    You Can't Take It with You (23-Aug-1938) · Henderson
    Ali Baba Goes to Town (22-Oct-1937)
    Danger: Love at Work (30-Sep-1937)
    Internes Can't Take Money (16-Apr-1937)
    36 Hours to Kill (24-Jul-1936)
    The Milky Way (7-Feb-1936) · Willard
    Twentieth Century (3-May-1934) · Max Jacobs


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