Veteran character actor Charles Lane passed away last night at the grand age of 102. His son Tom said that he was talking with his father at the time of his passing. “He was lying in bed with his eyes real wide open. Then he closed his eyes and stopped breathing.”
Lane’s prolific career spanned almost seven decades and he was one of the first to join the Screen Actors Guild in 1933. Though audiences probably wouldn’t recognize his name, they surely remember his face and trademark crusty demeanor and a list of over 800 credits.
Among other films, Lane appeared in Mighty Joe Young, The Music Man, and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. He was a staple of nine Frank Capra films like It’s a Wonderful Life, You Can’t Take It With You and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Capra once wrote to Lane, “Well, Charlie, you’ve been my No. 1 crutch.”
Despite an impressive movie career, Lane will likely be best remembered for a long list of television credits. He became good friends with Lucille Ball while she was still a chorus girl in RKO musicals and, as a result, Lane was cast many times in the Lucy series. He was especially fond of the I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky. Lane recalled his role, “This old guy was expecting his 10th child or something, and this nervous young man [Ricky Ricardo] was expecting his first. It was a marvelous scene, and Desi was a fine actor.”
Lane was a regular on Petticoat Junction as mean-spirited railroad vice-president J. Homer Bedloe. He appeared on six episodes of Dennis the Menace (as Mr. Finch), seven episodes of Soap (as Judge Petrillo in Jessica Tate’s trial), and eight episodes of Bewitched in multiple roles. He can also be seen on episodes of classic series like Get Smart, The Andy Griffith Show, The Odd Couple, Little House on the Prairie, Dark Shadows, L.A. Law, and Maude, just to name a few. He also appeared on seven episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies and took part in the The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies reunion movie.
Lane was honored on the occasion of his 100th birthday on the 2005 TV Land Awards. A special award was presented to him by young star Haley Joel Osment. Lane made a point of telling the audience that he was still available for work. You can see the clip below.