Happy Birthday, Charles!

One of Hollywood's favorite -- and most prolific -- character actors, Charles Lane, celebrated his 100th birthday on January 26, 2005. The official party, however, was held on Sunday, January 30 -- and what a joyous event it was!

Born and raised in San Francisco, Lane started in the insurance business while also dabbling in local theatre. He eventually trained at the Pasadena Playhouse, and, in 1930, made his motion picture debut. Charles ultimately appeared in more than 400 pictures in a career that spanned over 50 years. According to one author, "His earnest and lean-faced physiognomy, framed in rimless spectacles, has usually been seen as a tax collector, a grouchy millionaire or an acerbic banker much of the time over the years."

Among his many films were "42nd Street," "Gold Diggers of 1933," "Broadway Melody," "Nothing Sacred," "The Milky Way" and "You Can't Take it With You." He was a favorite of director Frank Capra, who cast him in such classics as "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Broadway Bill," "It's a Wonderful Life," and "State of the Union." He appeared opposite John Barrymore in "Twentieth Century," and with Clark Gable in both "Teacher's Pet" and "But Not for Me."

When television arrived on the scene, Lane became an industry favorite, a master at both comedy and drama. He appeared for seven seasons as a regular on the bucolic "Petticoat Junction" series, but was equally convincing in serious parts on such award-winning mini-series as "Sybil" and "The Winds of War."

Charlie, of course, appeared with Lucy many times over the years, both in movies ("Miss Grant Takes Richmond") and on television. He appeared in at least a half-dozen classic episodes of "I Love Lucy" -- including the show in which Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky -- and was a first-season regular on "The Lucy Show." When interviewed about his centennial, Lane recalled: "She was a chorus girl at RKO, and I did a number of musicals there. We got to be friends, and I had lunch with her everyday."

Lane also had respect for her professionalism on the "Lucy" shows, and for husband Desi Arnaz. The scene Lane did with Desi in the expectant father's waiting room is one of his all-time favorites. "This old guy is expecting his 10th child or something," Lane recalls, "And this nervous young man who's expecting his first. It was a marvelous scene, and Desi was a fine actor."

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Obviously, there was a large contingency of "Lucy" people included at Charlie's party. Among them were director Billy Asher and his wife; film editor Dann Cahn and his wife; director Jay Sandrich; writer Bob Schiller; actresses Shirley Mitchell (who read special greetings from Lucie and Desi, Jr.) and Peggy Rea; and actor William Schallert (who bestowed Lane with a special certificate of appreciation from the Screen Actors Guild). Also, Mrs. Jess Oppenheimer and Mr. and Mrs. Gregg Oppenheimer.

Representing "The Lucy Show," on which Charlie played Danfield banker "Mr. Barnsdahl," were Jimmy Garrett and Candy Moore, seen here with longtime Lucy associate, Frank Gorey (left):

Also attending were actress Cara Williams, actor Frank Aletter, and Johnny Grant, "the honorary Mayor of Hollywood" -- and dozens of Lane friends and family members.

The party, held at the Marina Beach Marriott hotel in Marina del Rey, CA, was planned by producers Garret Boyajian and George Ridjaneck, who also supplied two very entertaining sets of film clips chronicling Lane's long career. (Garret and George are also hard at work producing a documentary about Charlie's long career -- and if these clips are an indication, it should be wonderful!). Rick Carl created the invitations, place cards and centerpieces. Also assisting with the party were Michael Stern, Larry Pane, Bill Miller and Pam Palesano.

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Here are a few more pictures, many courtesy of Stuart Shostak...

Bill and Meredith Asher arrive at the Marriott ballroom. (That's Michael Stern greeting them!)


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Actress/impressionist Suzanne LaRusch and Michael greet Johnny Grant...


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Jimmy Garrett catches up with William Schallert -- who played his softball coach in an episode of "The Lucy Show."


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Actress Shirley Mitchell says hello to Cara Williams, who was escorted by casting director Marvin Paige (partially hidden behind Shirley).


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Directors Jay Sandrich (left) and Bill Asher (right) share old memories of working with Charlie and Lucy.


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Video archivist Stuart Shostak says hello to Charlie. Standing behind them are Estelle Oppenheimer, widow of producer Jess O, and Charlie's son, Tom Lane.


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Producers Garret B (left) and George R (right) chat with the birthday boy...


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Nearly two dozen visitors to the We Love Lucy website were kind to send special birthday greetings to Mr. Lane in care of the fan club, and Tom Watson presented them to Charlie at the party:







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Original material © 2005 Lucyfan Enterprises.
I Love Lucy is copyrighted by and a registered trademark of CBS Worldwide, Inc.
Images of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used by permission of Desilu, too, LLC.
Licensing by Unforgettable Licensing, Northbrook, Illinois.