Charles Lane, who passed away on the 9th at age 102, was the veteran of hundreds of film and TV roles â€” among the credits small parts in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "It’s a Wonderful Life," "Twentieth Century," "42nd Street" and "The Gold Diggers of 1933" â€” as well as one of the last witnesses to a studio system working actor’s life that no longer exists.
Writes Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle:
There are two ways for a bit player to screw up. One way, the forgivable way, is to be inconspicuous. The other way is to act as though you’re the star of the picture. Lane did neither. He simply brought truth to his brief moments on screen. With Lane, the audience understood that the reporters, clerks, salesmen and managers he played were people in the midst of their own day — a day that just happened to intersect with the world of the movie. As such, he had no need to be especially patient or ingratiating. He was rarely nasty, but he usually seemed busy and impatient. He had something he was doing, that he wanted to do, and then Gary Cooper or Barbara Stanwyck or somebody had to come over and interrupt him.
Robert Berkvist at the New York Times adds:
Mr. Lane routinely forgot the names of the movies in which he appeared.
â€œWhen I get in the car, turn the switch and start home, I forget all about them,â€ he told The New York Times in 1947. On at least one occasion, he was quite astonished to see himself turn up in a movie he had paid good money to see. And as one of the first members of the Screen Actors Guild, he made good money, for the times. His salary in 1947 was $750 a week.
He was so omnipresent and so much the representative of his type, whatever that was, that people would come up to him in the street and greet him, because they thought they knew him from their hometowns.
+ CHARLES LANE: 1905-2007 (SF Chronicle)
+ Charles Lane, Hollywood Character Actor, Dies at 102 (NY Times)