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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

entry arrow11:38 AM | Charles Lane, 1905-2007

Who was Charles Lane? He was a 102-year old actor you've seen a lot but never quite knew by name. In an industry that turns a blind eye on its hardworking but little known character actors, he was in every way a "nobody." To be more precise, he was "everybody" -- in a career that spanned eight decades, he accumulated screen credits in hundreds of films the exact count of which he could no longer remember. He played all types, including "hotel clerks, cashiers, reporters, lawyers, judges, tax collectors, mean-spirited businessmen, the powerful as well as the nondescript," writes Robert Berkvist for The New York Times. "Sometimes he was little more than a face in the crowd, with only a line or two of dialogue, which made it easy for him to trot from one movie set to another and rack up two or three film credits in a single day. He appeared in hundreds of comedies, dramas, gangster flicks and musicals, ranging from You Can’t Take It With You (1938) and Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) to Mighty Joe Young (1949) and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) ... 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." Mr. Lane considered his tax collector role in Frank Capra's You Can’t Take It With You (1938) as his favorite role.Treating his film roles as a regular nine-to-five job (hopping from one studio to the next...), he mostly forgot the titles of the films he worked in, and "on at least one occasion, he was quite astonished to see himself turn up in a movie he had paid good money to see." He last appeared on a feature film in 1987's Date With an Angel, where he essayed -- with gusto -- the role of a marijuana-loving priest. I'm thinking: the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was made for this type of man: so why are they giving it to the likes of Angelina Jolie or Robin Williams or George Clooney? They're hardly "supporting." This guy's life would make for an interesting movie, or at least a riveting novel or play in the tradition of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. This one though should end in an infectious optimism that Mr. Lane had in real life.

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