Charles Lane – Trust Me, You’ll Know Him By Sight

As character actors go, he had quite a career. He was always the stiff, stern company man or governmental hack – the guy who had a ready “no” for anything you needed.

Charles Lane’s resume on IMDB is as long as your arm. There are 300+ entries, many of them for multiple appearances on the same TV series. On Bewitched alone he was Mr. Roland, Mr. Cushman, Mr. Jameson, Mr. Harmon and Mr. Mr. Meikeljohn.

Like most character actors, he wasn’t well known by name. If you’re too well known, your value as a ‘character’ diminishes. The ratio of those who knew him to those who knew his name had to be 100:1, maybe more.

From the LA Times: “His roles were so numerous that he told TV Guide in 1965 that he would occasionally see himself in movies on TV and have no memory of having played that role.”

I most remember Charles Lane as Homer Bedloe, president of the railroad (the CF&RW) that employed Floyd and Charlie and ran the Cannonball between Hooterville and Pixley with that stop at Petticoat Junction’s “Shady Rest Hotel.”

Mr. Bedloe was out to get Kate Bradley, while Kate’s Uncle Joe tried to get Bedloe. Kate was always victorious. By definition, everyone on Petticoat Junction prevailed against Uncle Joe! Homer Bedloe never got more than a Pyrrhic victory.

It wasn’t until I read about him in Wikipedia and saw his ‘original’ name (Charles Gerstle Levison) that I realized he was Jewish. They had Jews in San Fransisco in 1905? Who knew?

Charles Lane was 102 when he died on Monday in Southern California. He was one of my all-time favorite mean people.

A documentary on his life is in production. I’d like to see “You Know the Face” when it’s released. Meanwhile, the clip below is from Nickelodeon on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

Mr. Wizard Dies

Helaine sent me a link a few minutes ago. Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard, has died.

Here’s what I wrote about him three years ago.

Don Herbert had a profound influence on my formative years. He was “American Idol” for many 1950’s nerds. He’ll be missed.

Continue reading “Mr. Wizard Dies”

Truth In Television

Steffie came home a while ago from a busy Saturday night. I was downstairs in the family room watching TV and invited her to join me.

“Whatever you want to watch,” I said.

C-Span was on at the time. Some guy was answering questions as Thomas Jefferson. I wanted to show I valued her company.

“Cops, Jerry Springer, The Hills. Your choice.”

It’s nice to have her around. Steffie’s killer this summer.

We watched some ‘fine’ MTV reality and Kathy Griffin’s “D List.” Steffie was biding her time. She wanted to watch “Finders Keepers” on Nickelodeon Games and Sports. It was a game show she watched in reruns when she was a little girl – produced when she was one year old!

It was a hoot because it was awful.

We watched for a few minutes and then, as two members of the Blue Team were looking for a cheese sandwich, it happened. A hand, which was supposed to be off camera, actually pointed the contestants to the cheese sandwich. We couldn’t believe our eyes!

Our DVR records all shows, even ‘live’ TV. I rewound. It was there, a hand, briefly, and a finger pointing to the sandwich.

Finders Keepers was fixed!

Steffie says she’s crushed. I am personally offering to find an attorney for the Red Team. They were jobbed. Can I ever look Sponge Bob in the eyes again?

Radio On TV

What has gotten into me? Here I am, a big city boy by birth and Saturday I was listening to the Grand Old Opry. Sunday night I watched “A Prairie Home Companion,” Garrison Keillor’s eclectic NPR radio show, which was carried as part of PBS’ Great Performance series.

Let me personally take this opportunity to thank viewers like you.

Of the three in my immediate family, I’m the only PHC fan. Helaine has heard enough to make up her mind – in the negative.

At age 19, Stef shouldn’t really know about the show at all. She was once subjected to a full performance as we drove from New York City to Connecticut on a Saturday night. I thought she was asleep, but she was awake enough to do a dead on Garrison Keillor impression for Helaine.

“To Al and Freida in Dubuque. Good luck with the hip replacement surgery.” And then, she took a deep, pre-asthmatic breath. It was scary to hear.

Prairie Home Companion’s audience does not watch MTV, VH-1 or E! If Stef never hears the show again, it will be too soon for her.

Watching radio is interesting… since it isn’t meant to be watched. When you want to hide something in radio, you’re just quiet about it. That doesn’t work when cameras are rolling. The stage is crazy with people moving in an out. Everyone is clutching a script.

I’m am surprised, maybe more disappointed, Garrison and his guests often hold their microphones. That is so wrong! They are supposed to speak into immense RCA ribbon condenser microphones with metal grillwork. They need mics like the RCA 44-BK or the RCA 77-DX.

Along with Sue Scott and Jim Russell, tonight’s cast included Fred Newman. Maybe you remember him from the very early days of Nickelodeon? He was the young guy (back then) with a full head of white hair. His specialty is sound effects – produced mainly with his mouth.

Oh – Meryl Streep was also on, and a natural as a radio actress. I was impressed.

I haven’t seen the Prairie Home Companion movie yet. It’s not Garrison, but my nearly unbroken history of disappointment with Robert Altman movies that keeps me from going.

The good thing about watching this radio show, broadcast on TV, on my computer (I recorded the show on my DVR and then transferred it over here) is, I can fast forward through the really slow parts. As much as I enjoy the show, there are plenty of really slow parts.

Don Knotts

Word came out Saturday Don Knotts had died. Knotts has been a visible entertainment fixture for my entire life.

There will be TV sound bites and newspaper (and Internet) obituaries written. That’s not why I’ve started this entry. I want to mention his passing because Don Knotts’ career serves as an age benchmark.

Here’s how it works:

If you remember Don Knotts from Steve Allen’s Show, you are older than me. Thank heavens someone is!

If Don Knotts is Barney Fife to you, you’re a baby boomer – somewhere between 40 and 60. I’m not sure how Don and Andy got together, though they appeared earlier in the movie “No Time For Sergeants” (Knotts as a very tightly wound dexterity tester).

Three’s Company has been off the air over 20 years. If you’re in your 30s or 40s, Don Knotts is Mr. Furley, Norman Fell’s replacement.

There are a few other actors who can be used to predict your age, like Ann B. Davis. Is she Alice from the Brady Bunch or Schultzy from Love That Bob? The answer is telling.

Lots of actors complain about being typecast. I would hope Don Knotts was happy with the persona he portrayed on TV and in the movies. The International Movie Database shows him being in over 70 named shows and movies, mostly as that bumbling, nerdy, nervous little guy.

His early work with Steve Allen showed what was to come. On a show filled with over-the-top characters (including Louis Nye, Tom Poston, Dayton Allen and Bill “Jose Jimenez” Dana), the quivering Knotts was incredibly memorable.

I saw him within the past few years on Nickelodeon. I was pleased to see he looked good and seemed sharp.

I am saddened he is gone. Considering his body of work, he’ll never really be out of sight.

Old TV Remembered

Here it is the middle of the night and I’ve just finished watching “Make Room for Daddy” on Nickelodeon. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen MRFD and this episode specifically.

This was the episode that spun off “The Andy Griffith Show.”

I didn’t get there for the very beginning. I saw the credits and saw I missed Frank Cady (Sam Drucker from Petticoat Junction, Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres) and Rance Howard, Ron Howard’s father.

Also missing was Don Knotts. There was no deputy in this episode.

Ron Howard was there. Judging by looks, he was around three or four years old. Compared to comparably aged Olsen Twins, he could definitely act.

Andy referred to the relative who took care of Opie as Aunt Lucy. Lucy wasn’t seen but Francis Bavier, who would go on to play Aunt Bea, played a down on her luck townie.

As pilots go, and I suppose this can be considered the “Andy Griffith Show’s” pilot, it was pretty well fleshed out and quite similar to what ended up on the air. All this, of course, because the show was built totally around Andy’s persona.

I should say a few words about Danny Thomas. He was an overacting, self indulgent, and sparsely talented comedic lead. That’s why Andy Griffith’s show is the one we remember and Danny Thomas’ has faded away.