The Wonderful Hatchet-Faced Beady-Eyed Skinflint.Posted: July 11, 2007
Charles Lane (born Charles Levison) died Monday at the age of 102. As an older man, he played the same role a million times on TV (the irascible bureaucrat, the skinflint banker, etc.), but when you happen to catch him in a movie from the 1930s, you discover the young men he was playing had the souls of old men even then. Charles Lane was Forever Old.
The TV Land Awards honored him on his 100th birthday. Have the patience to get through Haley Joel Osment’s introduction–if you do, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful montage of Lane’s television work. And be sure to stay to the very end, to see Lane deliver the best punch line of all in the (hundred-year old) flesh.
Bill Reed has some nice observations about Lane on his blog, which you can read by clicking here.
And Mickey Kaus has a good item on him (Lane was his grandmother’s cousin!) at Slate.
A documentary, in which the actor participated last year, is in the works on Lane, called You Know the Face. I love it already.
It’s funny–and I don’t know how important this is to anyone else, but hey, it’s my blog–I never realized until coming upon the actor’s birth name a couple of years ago that Charles Lane was Jewish. Once you know he was, the face confirms it. (And Bill Reed notes that in his very earliest roles, Lane’s nose was bigger.) But all those years…there was just something so New Englandy about the guy. In his roles as miserly bankers, skeptical insurance adjusters, flinty judges, unsympathetic rent collectors, gimlet-eyed reporters, et. al., he seemed the ultimate WASP, some kind of American archetype going back to the Puritans. It’s a tribute to his ability as an actor that he could own that archetype. But I like owning him as one of mine.