Celebrity News March 09, 2023
Robert Blake, 'Baretta' Star Acquitted in Wife's Murder, Dies at 89
Robert Blake, the TV star acquitted of the murder of his wife in 2005, died Thursday, his family announced. He was 89.
KKTV reports his niece, Noreen Austin, said in a statement that Blake died from heart disease. He was reportedly surrounded by family in his L.A. home at the time of his passing.
After his estranged wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was shot to death outside an Italian restaurant in 2001, Blake's career was effectively over, odd details of their marriage — which resulted in the birth of a child — and suspicion that Blake had gotten away with murder forever tarnishing his image.
Blake avoided prison but lost a civil case, which led to a $15-million judgment against him that bankrupted the former star.
He went to his grave denying responsibility for the heinous crime.
Blake's was a uniquely Hollywood story.
He was born Michael James Gubitosi on September 18, 1933, in Nutley, New Jersey. His parents were vaudeville performers, and they recruited their three offspring into a child act called the Three Little Hillbillies.
Blake would later accuse both parents of mental, physical, and sexual abuse.
Relocating to L.A., his parents signed Mickey up for work as a movie extra. His uncredited debut in the movies came in MGM's "Bridal Suite" (1939). Immediately thereafter, he was cast in the "Our Gang" shorts, replacing Eugene "Porky" Lee, going on to show up in 40 shorts through 1944.
Unlike most of his "Our Gang" co-stars, Blake continued to act steadily. Among his memorable roles were Little Beaver in a series of more than 20 "Red Ryder" westerns at Republic, plus parts in "The Big Noise" (1944) with Laurel and Hardy, and in A pictures like Joan Crawford's "Humoresque" (1946) and the classic "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948).
Blake was active on TV in the '50s while struggling with depression and addiction, and racked up film roles in such projects as "Pork Chop Hill" (1959) and "Town Without Pity" (1961).
Perhaps his crowning achievement as an actor was the acclaimed 1967 film "In Cold Blood," in which he portrayed murderer Perry Smith.
True fame arrived when he was cast in the titular role on the series "Baretta" (1975-1978). For his work as the eccentric, streetwise cop with a cockatoo companion named Fred, a catchphrase always in his back pocket, Blake won the Emmy.
Considered tempestuous to work with, Blake's credits dwindled, but he did star in such films as "Coast to Coast" (1980) and in the short-lived series "Hell Town" (1985), among other projects.
His last big-screen performances were in "Money Train" (1995) and David Lynch's "Lost Highway" in 1997.
An unwelcome final act in his career began when he met Bonny Lee Bakley in 1999. He fathered a daughter with her, a child whose paternity was not determined definitively at first, and married her in 2000. He was her 10th husband.
On May 4, 2001, Blake and Bakley — widely characterized as a woman who routinely scammed men out of money — went out to eat at Vitello's in Studio City, California. She was later shot in the head while seated in her husband's car. Blake claimed he had left her alone to return to the restaurant for a gun he'd left behind. Arrested in 2002 and put on trial for the killing, Blake beat all charges in spite of testimony against him by two people who claimed Blake had once tried to hire them to kill Bakley.
Jurors, citing a lack of forensic evidence, acquitted Blake, but the die was cast and the public's minds made up one way or the other.
Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" novelization (2021) is dedicated to Blake; the story includes a character, played by Brad Pitt in the 2019 movie, who may or may not have murdered his wife.
Blake is survived by his daughter with Bakley, Rose Lenore.