Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Greatest Character Actor Ever Died Yesterday

Splotchy had a marvelous idea that's been sweeping the blogosphere-- adopt a character actor. I chose M. Emmett Walsh. Splotchy chose psycho-typecast actor David Patrick Kelly. There have been a bunch of other inspired choices-- Clancy Motherf*ckin' Brown (Samurai Frog), Udo Kier (Dystopia), perpetual bad guy William Zabka (Chris), Joe Pantoliano (Beckeye), Corinne Bohrer (Deadspot) and Dick Miller (Bubs).

A character actor is one of those actors or actresses that you've seen a million times in a million movies or tv shows and you know their face, but usually not their name. Norman Fell was a classic example of this-- he even took advantage of the fact that he had a face everyone knew but a name nobody did for a very successful ad for American Express years ago.

The actor who was, perhaps, the greatest character actor ever, died today. He fills the bill in spades-- this actor:

  • Portrayed Mr. Potter's rent collector in It's a Wonderful Life-- the one who warns Mr. Potter that a lot of his renters are buying George Bailey's houses.
  • Was the airport manager in the movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
  • Had parts in "42nd Street" in 1933, "Flying Tigers" in 1942, "Call Northside 777" in 1948, "Mighty Joe Young" in 1949, a bunch of parts in "I Love Lucy" throughout the 1950's, "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" in 1966, played the voice of a character in "The AristoCats" in 1970, "The Winds of War" mini-series in 1983, had a part in "Dark Shadows" in the 1990's and had his last role in 2006. He had over 300 parts over eight decades.
  • Appeared in the television shows "Perry Mason," "The Twilight Zone," "Maverick," "Dennis the Menace," "Mr. Ed,"The Andy Griffith Show," "The Smothers Brothers Show," "Get Smart," "F-Troop," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "The Flying Nun," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Bewitched (repeatedly, in different roles), "Rhoda," "One Day At A Time," "Chico and the Man," "The Odd Couple," "Soap," "Mork and Mindy," "Lou Grant," "Little House On the Prarie," "St. Elsewhere," "Hunter", and "L.A. Law." This guy would be a godsend in a game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."
  • Is perhaps best remembered for portraying Homer Bedloe in Petticoat Junction.

Who was he? It was Charles Lane. He died yesterday at the age of 102. His life spanned the Golden Age of the movie industry and the invention and growth of television. Lane appeared in movies with nearly every famous star and starlet and worked with most of the great directors. His anonymity, filling in unheralded roles and background characters in movies, in a way made for his grandeur.

But of course his most important accomplishment over his incredible, vast career was that he brought me three points today in the Celebrity Dead Pool that The Elk's brother runs. The old bastard-- I had him on my list for five years. Jeez, who expects to wait a half decade for a guy in his late nineties to kick off?


Danny Tagalog said...

Never heard of him - but I'd hope he had written a biography before he popped his clogs with that kind of CV

cheer34 said...

I loved that guy. Thanks for giving his face a real name. I hope he had a happy life. He was always so grumpy on TV.

Spooney said...

I totally remember that guy. He was in everything and always played the mean guy. I think I remember him being the mean property owner on F-Troop trying to evict a poor widow with kids from her home. I can't believe he was still living.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Guess you can't say it's sad when you live that old. I hope I'm that lucky.

Splotchy said...

I'm sorry he died, but I'm happy you got three points.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

For a second I thought Splotchy's adoptee died. But then I read the rest of the post and I remember that guy so well now. We was on everything I watched when I was a kid.

Beth said...

I've always wanted to get in on one of those death pools ...

Johnny Yen said...

I'll bet he had a lot of stories to tell. In the obits, they said sometimes he'd film 2 or 3 different television show and movie parts a day.

Yeah, he was known for playing grumpy guys, yet from all accounts was a really nice guy-- he was married to the same woman for 70 years. I guess it's a tribute to his skill as an actor.

Had I not known about him because of him being a pick in the dead pool, he would have been one of those "Oh, he was still alive" celebrity deaths.

His life was long and rich. I'll bet he had some great stories. He probably should have blogged.

Points is points. We're having quite the week-- after a long dry spell-- our last death was in April-- we've had a hat trick: Lane, Lady Bird Johnson and Australian shock jock Stan Zemanek.

You know that Bubs is in the pool, don't you?

After I posted it, I realized that people might think that was the case. I figured they'd figure it out when they read the post.

He was the quinessential character actor-- even I would not have been able to name him if I hadn't had him in the pool.

I'll let you know the specifics toward the end of the year. For now, start compiling a list of ten celebs who are on the ropes, plus one who is under 40 and one Kennedy. A Kennedy is loosely defined-- it can include someone who's married into the family, like Arnold the Gubernator.

Splotchy said...

No, I didn't know Bubs was in the pool, but it doesn't surprise me.

He celebrates every celebrity death with a cupcake and a candle (not true, but check out all that alliteration!).