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?