In Passing

SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2007

Los Angeles

Charles Lane, character actor

Charles Lane, the anonymous yet highly familiar character actor who specialized in playing humorous cranks in hundreds of film and television roles stretching back to the early 1930s, has died. He was 102.

Lane died Monday night at his home in Brentwood on the west side of Los Angeles.

Although his name was known only to a few, his sharply featured face and lanky presence were recognizable to generations of moviegoers as the man who suffered fools badly in films such as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (a newsman), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Mr. Potter’s employee), “You Can’t Take It With You” (an IRS agent), “No Time for Sergeants” (the draft board driver) and hundreds of others in which he played shopkeepers, professors, judges, bureaucrats, doctors, “a guy at the bar,” policemen and salesmen. In the 1930s alone, he appeared in 161 films.

Starting in the early 1950s, Lane also appeared on dozens of TV shows. Perhaps most famously, he appeared in classic episodes of “I Love Lucy,” playing several characters who all seemed to have in common a stunned if comical lack of patience for the bumbling Lucy.

After more than 60 years of acting, Lane last appeared in a TV movie in 1995.

Princeton, Minn.

Kathleen Woodiwiss, romance novelist

Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, known as the mother of the modern romance novel for books such as “The Flame and the Flower” and “Forever in Your Embrace” that helped redefine the romantic fiction genre, has died. She was 68.

Woodiwiss, whose first 12 novels have sold more than 30 million copies, died July 6 at a hospital near her home in Princeton, Minn. The cause was cancer.

Her final book, “Everlasting,” will be published this fall.

Before Woodiwiss’ first novel, “The Flame and the Flower,” was published in 1972, romance fiction was wrapped around suspense or gothic tales. The romance part was demure and suggestive, the books were relatively short.

In developing a new category, Woodiwiss crafted more complex plots with somewhat controversial relationships. Her stories twist and turn for 500 pages or more before their happy ending.

A number of Woodiwiss’ titles including “Ashes in the Wind” (1979) raced to the top of the New York Times paperback best-seller list.


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