There is currently a very petty edit on his Wikipedia page that, as only some three thousand people died in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 at the outside and the population of San Francisco at the time was literally a hundred times that, it’s really putting too much on him to say he was one of the last survivors of the earthquake. Which misses that, yes, he did survive it. He was a little over a year old at the time. And he lived over a century after that, well after pretty well everyone else who survived it was dead. There may well have been other survivors who outlived him, all of whom were also pretty much babies at the time, but there can’t have been a lot of them. That’s just math.
And after all it was hardly Charles Lane’s only claim to fame. He grew up to have one of those astonishing careers where he simply did so many things that you almost have to have seen him in something he did even if few of them were of much note. Okay, so he worked with Capra ten times—probably the most notable of those was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where he was sixteenth-billed—and did various other things you’ve likely heard of. Apparently being personal friends with Lucille Ball was helpful to his career. But still; for every Kiss Me Deadly, there’s at least on The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock.
All told, though, he had 370 credits, given TV and movies. And while his last one is a made-for-TV remake of The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes starring Kirk Cameron and Larry Miller, which even I cannot reliably remember exists, it’s also worth noting that it came out in 1995 and therefore he was hardly a young man when he made it. Even then, Extremely Petty Wikipedia Editor, there cannot have been more than a handful of survivors of the 1906 earthquake still alive, though admittedly odds were rather better at the time that there was still a survivor who could actually remember it. Which I very much doubt Lane could.
Notably, Lane was also one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild in part because of the horrific abuses actors suffered while making movies. He was a big supporter of unionization as a solution to the abuses of industry. One of the things he talked about was that the hours actors were expected to put in were incredibly damaging. They would be on the set until midnight and have call times at seven the next morning. And, sure, part of it was that the studios knew that, for every person who couldn’t take it anymore, there were at least five more who would give it a shot. But that’s the value of the union; standing together is better.
At age 100, he was given a lifetime achievement award from TVLand, in part as a birthday present. And he said he was still available. I am disappointed that the documentary about him, You Know the Face, which he was working on when he died, doesn’t seem to have ever actually been released. Because he does seem to have had a fascinating life—my old California history teacher would shame me if I didn’t mention that his career went back to the Pasadena Playhouse nearly a century ago. And if you still aren’t sure where you know him from, apparently the blue-haired lawyer who’s been shown as working for Mr. Burns was based on him.