Charles Lane, (born Charles Gerstle Levison January 26, 1905 – July 9, 2007), was an American character actor whose career spanned a remarkable 64 years. Lane turned in his last performance at the age of 90. Lane appeared in many Frank Capra films, including You Can't Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946). He was a favored supporting actor of Lucille Ball, who often used him as a no-nonsense authority figure and comedic foe of her scatterbrained TV character on her TV series I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and The Lucy Show.
Lane spent a short time as an insurance salesman before taking to the stage at the Pasadena Playhouse. Actor/director Irving Pichel first suggested that Lane go into acting in 1929, and four years later Lane was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild. He became a favorite of director Frank Capra, who used him in several films; in It's a Wonderful Life, Lane played a seemingly hard-nosed rent collector for the miserly Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore), who tried to explain to his employer that many of his tenants were moving out, taking advantage of affordable mortgages provided by the film's protagonist, George Bailey (James Stewart).
Lane also appeared in the 1949 film Mighty Joe Young, as one of the reporters cajoling Max O'Hara (Robert Armstrong) for information about the identity of "Mr. Joseph Young", the persona given featured billing on the front of the building, on opening night.
Among his many roles as a character actor, Lane landed the recurring role as newspaper editor Mr. Fosdick in the Peter Lawford sitcom Dear Phoebe, which aired on NBC in the 1954-1955 season. In that same season, Lane played the boss of the title character in June Havoc's NBC sitcom entitled Willy. He portrayed Emil Quincy in two episodes of the syndicated romantic comedy series, How to Marry a Millionaire (1957–1959), with Barbara Eden and Merry Anders. However, he is most widely remembered for his portrayal of J. Homer Bedloe on the television situation comedy Petticoat Junction. Bedloe was a mean-spirited railroad executive who visited the Shady Rest Hotel periodically, attempting to find justification for ending the train service of the Hooterville Cannonball, but never succeeding. He guest starred on many television programs, including the syndicated drama of the American Civil War, Gray Ghost, and ABC's short-lived sitcom, The Bing Crosby Show in the 1964-1965 season.
He was a good friend of Lucille Ball, and his specialty in playing scowling, beady-eyed, short tempered, no-nonsense professionals provided the perfect comic foil for Lucy's scatterbrained TV character. He played several guest roles on I Love Lucy, most notably in the episode "Lucy Goes To the Hospital", where he is seated in the waiting room with Ricky while Lucy gives birth to their son. He also played the title role in the episode "The Business Manager", the casting director in "Lucy Tells The Truth", and the passport clerk in "Staten Island Ferry." He appeared twice in The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. He later had recurring roles as shopkeeper Mr. Finch on Dennis the Menace and during the first season (1962–63) of Ball's The Lucy Show, playing banker Mr. Barnsdahl. According to The Lucy Book by Geoffrey Fidelman, Lane was turfed because he had trouble reciting his lines correctly. However, Lane was in reality a placeholder for Lucy's original choice, Gale Gordon, who joined the program in 1963 as Mr. Mooney after he was free from other contractual obligations.
In 1963, Lane appeared in the mega-comedy It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, playing the airport manager. His final acting role was at the age of 101 in 2006's The Night Before Christmas. His last television appearance was at the age of 90, when he appeared in the 1995 Disney TV remake of its 1970 teen comedy The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, with Kirk Cameron. In 2005, the TV Land Awards paid tribute to Lane by celebrating his 100th birthday. Seated in a wheelchair in the audience, which had sung Happy Birthday to him, Lane was presented with his award by Haley Joel Osment and then announced "If you're interested, I'm still available [for work]!" The audience gave him a standing ovation.
All told, Lane appeared in more than 250 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, then hurrying off to another set for a different costume and a different role. As for being typecast, Lane described it as "... a pain in the ass. You did something that was pretty good, and the picture was pretty good. But that pedigreed you into that type of part, which I thought was stupid and unfair, too. It didn't give me a chance, but it made the casting easier for the studio." 
Lane's persona has been referenced in The Simpsons: on the audio commentary to the episode "Marge in Chains", its director Jim Reardon states that Lane's performance in It's a Wonderful Life inspired the character of the snide, humourless Blue-Haired Lawyer who appears in that and other episodes in the series.
Lane was born Charles Gerstle Levison to a Jewish family in San Francisco, California, to Alice G. and Jacob B. Levison and was, prior to his death, one of the last remaining survivors of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. In 1931, Lane married Ruth Covell and they remained together for 70 years until her death in 2002. They had a son named Tom and a daughter named Alice.
In 1990, Lane at age 85, was rushed to hospital after 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.
Despite his stern, hard-hearted demeanor in films and television, friends and acquaintances seem to unanimously describe Lane as a warm, funny and kind person. On January 26, 2007, Lane celebrated his 102nd birthday. A documentary about his life and career, entitled You Know the Face, is currently in production. He continued to live in the Brentwood home he bought with Ruth for $46,000 in 1964 until his death. In the end, his son Tom Lane, said he was talking with his father at 9 p.m. on the evening of Monday, July 9, 2007, "He was lying in bed with his eyes real wide open. Then he closed his eyes and stopped breathing." Charles Lane was 102. Lane was not the only person in his family to have a long life - his mother Alice died in her San Francisco home in 1973 aged 100.
- ↑ "Charles Lane". Dead or Alive?. Kentix Computing. http://www.deadoraliveinfo.com/dead.nsf/lnames-nf/Lane+Charles. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Character Actor Charles Lane Dies at 102". FoxNews.com. Fox News. July 10, 2007. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,288867,00.html. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- ↑ "First Case". Internet Movie Data Base. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822305/. Retrieved March 12, 2011.
- ↑ Berkvist, Robert (11 July 2007). "Charles Lane, Hollywood Character Actor, Dies at 102". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E3DB113EF932A25754C0A9619C8B63. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- ↑ http://www.nndb.com/people/242/000027161/
- ↑ Thomas, Bob (10 July 2007). "Character Actor Charles Lane Dies". The Washington Post (Washington, DC: The Assocaited Press). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/10/AR2007071001307.html. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- Charles Lane at the Internet Movie Database
- Charles Lane at the Internet Broadway Database
- Charles Lane at "Great Character Actors", DougMacaulay.com
- Charles Lane at Find a Grave
- Charles Lane, Hollywood Character Actor, Dies at 102
- Charles Lane - Obituary and tribute
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