MICHAEL V. LANE
January 6, 1933 to June 1, 2015
A giant character actor
Michael V. Lane, an actor known for his titanic size, wrestling prowess, and indelible roles as Frankenstein and Hercules, died on Monday, June 1st, in Palmdale, CA, his daughter, Cristin Layne, at his side. He was 82.
A towering, 6-foot-8, 278-pound giant, Lane appeared in movies with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Tallulah Bankhead. He liked to say he was part of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the Golden Age of Wrestling.
Due to his formidable size, he began wrestling as a member of the King Brothers & Christiani Circus, a three ring circus that traveled the country. Housed in a special boxing and wrestling tent, Lane took on all comers.
Born in Washington D.C on January 6, 1933, Mike was the only child of Alice and Maxwell Gorvit. Growing up, he excelled in wrestling, the sport that allowed him to find acceptance as an adult. He later changed his name from Gorvit to Lane.
Thrilled at being chosen for a lead role in his first film, Lane’s life was forever changed, the big, hulking giant now a movie star. He went on to make ten films and more than 40 TV series, often appearing in multiple episodes, classic shows such as Maverick, Have Gun Will Travel, The Untouchables, Get Smart and Mission Impossible.
His first film, The Harder They Fall, was critically acclaimed and became a classic, especially in boxing circles. It concerns a broke, out-of-work newspaper reporter, Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart) who agrees to work for a corrupt boxing promoter, Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) to help hype his new boxer, Toro Moreno (Mike Lane).
“A mammoth hunk of prime beef”
In a 1956 review of the film, Bosley Crowther wrote:
The hoax is a gargantuan boxer with no more class than a paper towel is built up with ballyhoo and fixed fights into a challenger for the heavyweight crown … a boxer who is foolish enough to think he’s good. Mike Lane looks a mammoth hunk of prime beef among the various toughs and plug-uglies, played by Max Baer, Herbie Faye, Jersey Joe Walcott, Pat Comiskey, Abel Fernandez and several more.
The Bogart character is faced with the decision of whether or not to tell Toro that his entire career is a sham.
Lane liked to talk about how prepared for the role. After studio execs heard that a “perfect Toro” was wrestling in Texas, they sent for Lane and he killed the audition. He had come up with an accent somewhere between the fighter his character was patterned after, Primo Carnera, an Italian professional boxer and the World Heavyweight Champion from 1933 to 1934, and the Argentinian boxer Guillermo Roca.
The studio gave him dramatic and boxing lessons that molded him into the menacing boxer sans killer instinct. When it came to fighting Max Baer in the movie, Lane didn’t hold back, which pleased the director, Mike Robson. In one scene, when Lane knocked Baer to the floor for real, Robson later said: “Mike hit him good cause Max was not that good an actor.”
The “chicken from hell”
Lane had no trouble with savage mayhem as the Megazoid, an oversized “chicken from hell” monster featured in “The Duplicate Man,” a second season episode of Outer Limits. He played the Frankenstein monster in the 1958 film Frankenstein 1970 and made numerous appearances as a monster in the Saturday morning show, The Monster Squad. In “The Hunted,” a 1958 segment of the TV series Sugarfoot, Lane played a big, lumbering, mentally-unbalanced former cavalryman wanted for robbery and murder by a group of bounty hunters.
His immense height and powerful personal made him ideal to play such film roles as Hercules in 1992’s Ulysses and the Son of Hercules, as well as Fats in A Name of Evil (1973), and TV parts such as Daddy Longlegs in two episodes of the 1967’s Batman.
Lane is survived by his only child, Cristin Layne of Palmdale.