Wednesday, July 18, 2007

#1900: CHARLES LANE - WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

In writing up my Hat Squad tribute to Charles Lane, I mentioned my surprise at all of the shows in which he never appeared. He was on 'Maude', but why not 'All In The Family'? He was in an episode of 'Rhoda' and two of 'Lou Grant', so how come they couldn't find a role for him on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'? (It will be a Toobworld contention from now on however that Charles Lane played Mayr's uncle, General Richards, on an episode of 'Gomer Pyle USMC'.)

I'm not saying that there were already established roles in other shows which would have been better served by the participation of Charles Lane. I don't want to second-guess the producers as to why they never hired him for their shows. I'm just pointing out the programs where he would have been at home. This will be a bit o' "wish-craft". In other Toobwords, I'm just sayin', is all....

Unfortunately for the late Mr. Lane, I'm a prisoner of preconceived perceptions. Even though I know he hated his typecasting, I see him only as those irascible skinflints and bureaucrats he portrayed over the years.

From the New York Times:
His bony physique, craggy face and the authoritarian or supercilious way he would peer through his spectacles at his fellow actors eventually led to his being typecast and locked into playing a succession of lawyers, judges, assorted lawmen and other abrasive roles. It was, he said in an interview, “stupid and unfair” to be called upon to play the same kinds of roles over and over again.

“It didn’t give me a chance,” he said. But, he added, “it made the casting easier for the studio.”

At the same time, that typecasting may have provided him with far more work than he otherwise might have had if he did not have such an enduring image. So even though these suggestions would have reinforced his typecasting, I for one would have been happy for the chance to see more of him.

'ARCHIE BUNKER'S PLACE' & 'CHEERS'
These are two shows in which Mr. Lane could have been a regular bar patron. On 'Archie Bunker's Place', Bill Quinn probably already covered the bases as an elderly patron with his role as the blind Mr. Van Rensselear. And 'Cheers' had several elderly barflies in Al and Phil.

But Charles Lane could have added the bitters to the mix, and he would have given Carla as good as she gave out.

(By the way, Bill Quinn played Mary Richards' dad, Doctor Walter Reed Richards, so if I'm going to claim that Mr. Lane was her uncle as General Richards on 'Gomer Pyle, USMC', that means he and Quinn would have been playing brothers.)

'ALL IN THE FAMILY'
Many actors played several roles on 'All In The Family' over the years, so if Mr. Lane played a role in the earlier series, he could have still gone on to play a patron at Archie's bar.

I find it hard to believe he never did appear on 'All In The Family'; I can almost picture him as having done so. He would have been perfect as some bureaucrat locking horns with Archie Bunker; perhaps as the HR director down at the warehouse.

'BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'
If he had appeared on the original series, Mr. Lane might have been one of the sires of the council. But he would have fit in better on the sequel 'Galactica 1980', once they reached Earth. (Perhaps as a motel clerk who rents a room to Dillon and Troy.)

Had he appeared on the revamped version, a story reflecting the issues of the today on Earth could have involved him in a debate about age; whether it should be a factor in deciding who qualified for precious space during the evacuation.

'MONK'
He could have been in the nursing home mystery episode, hopefully as a witness rather than as the victim. But I could also see him as Monk's grandfather, with the same traits!

'DEEP SPACE NINE' & 'BABYLON 5'
A little bit of forehead makeup and voila! An elderly alien on board either one of those space stations.

'JULIA'
He could have been a medical colleague for Doctor Chegley, perhaps even a bigoted one who finally sees the error of his ways thanks to Julia.

'GET SMART II'
This would have been an obvious one - they should have brought hm in to reprise his role as Uncle Abner, Great Uncle Abner to Zack Smart.

'ALIAS SMITH AND JONES'
I see him as either a bank manager or maybe as the representative of the company that manufactured the Brooker 404 safe.

'IT TAKES A THIEF' & 'BANACEK'
He would have worked well as an insurance investigator who tangled/worked with Alexander Mundy or Thomas Banacek in the past.

'BATMAN'
My Bat-idea? Charles Lane as the first criminal Batman ever collared in Gotham City.

'HAZEL'
A role here would be something similar to the eight he played on 'Bewitched': as a man Mr. Baxter is working for, whose acerbic nature is softened by the rough charms of Hazel.

'THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW'
I see him as a friend/adversary of Uncle Tonoose.

'THE HONEYMOONERS'
Probably he'd work best as an official at the bus company, one that could put the fear of God into Ralph, but the show already had George O. Petrie to fill similar roles over the years.

'LASSIE'
Building off that image of him as Farmer Frisby on 'The Andy Griffith Show', Mr. Lane could have been some reclusive hermit who learns to open up and be friendly again thanks to the collie.

'VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA'
As either a senator, or admiral or perhaps a paper-pusher from the Nelson Oceanographic Institute.

'COLUMBO'
There were plenty of episodes in which the story was padded out by Columbo's diversions for bureaucratic details - getting permits, having his driving skills rated, stalling a gun practice test. Mr. Lane could have been a bureaucratic functionary in any one of those types of scenes - so long as Vito Scotti didn't grab it first!

Here are a few other shows I'd have enjoyed seeing him in:

'THE ROCKFORD FILES'
'THE WHITE SHADOW'
'HILL STREET BLUES'
'NORTHERN EXPOSURE'
'thirtySOMETHING'


'THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW'
Finally, with this show there could have been an actual crossover! Mr. Lane could have played one of his many roles from 'Bewitched' here, where he would have been the new advertiser for 'The Alan Brady Show' and the writing staff needed to impress him.


It's all wishful thinking now, and Charles Lane has such a substantive body of work already to enjoy. But it's like eating peanuts - no matter how many you have, you always want more when they're gone.

Once again, thanks for all that you contributed to TV and the movies, Mr. Lane. May God bless......

BCnU!
Toby OB

[My 1900th post to this blog]

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are amazing! How do you know all this stuff?

Toby said...

As one commenter once branded me, I'm a sciolist; I only learn just enough about any topic to use for my purposes. A quick check of Mr. Lane's IMDb credits, a scan of my DVD library, and an ill-used imagination, and I'm all set!

Thanks for thinking me brilliant, though!

Brian Leonard said...

Hey, he/she didn't say you were "brilliant", just "amazing".