(born Michael James Gubitosi
; September 18, 1933) is an American actor
. He is known for his starring roles in the film In Cold Blood
and the U.S. television series Baretta
Blake began acting as a child
, with a lead role in the final years of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
's Our Gang
) short film series from 1939 to 1944. He also appeared as a child actor in 22 entries of the Red Ryder
film franchise. In the Red Ryder
series and in many of his adult roles, Blake was cast as an American Indian or Latino
After a stint in the United States Army
, Blake returned to acting in both television and movie roles.
Blake continued acting until 1997's Lost Highway
in a career that author Michael Newton
called "one of the longest in Hollywood history."
Robert Blake was born Michael James Gubitosi
, New Jersey
, on September 18, 1933. His parents were Giacomo (James) Gubitosi and his wife, Elizabeth Cafone.
In 1930, James worked as a die setter for a can manufacturer. Eventually, Blake's parents began a song-and-dance act.
In 1936, their three children began performing, billed as "The Three Little Hillbillies."
They moved to Los Angeles
in 1938 where their children began working as movie extras
Blake had an unhappy childhood and was allegedly abused by his alcoholic
father. When he entered public school at age 10, he was bullied and had fights with other students, which led to his expulsion
. Blake stated that he was physically
and sexually abused
by both of his parents while growing up and was frequently locked in a closet and forced to eat off the floor as punishment.
At age 14, he ran away from home, leading to several more difficult years.
His father committed suicide in 1956.
Robert Blake in 1944
Then known as "Mickey Gubitosi", Blake began his acting career as Toto in the MGM
movie Bridal Suite
(1939), starring Annabella
and Robert Young
. Blake then began appearing in MGM's Our Gang short subjects
(a.k.a. The Little Rascals
) under his real name, replacing Eugene "Porky" Lee
. He appeared in 40 of the shorts between 1939 and 1944, eventually becoming the series' final lead character. Blake's parents also made appearances in the series as extras. In Our Gang
, Blake's character, Mickey, was often called upon to cry, for which he was criticized for being unconvincing. He was also criticized for being obnoxious and whiny.
In 1942, he acquired the stage name
"Bobby Blake" and his character in the series was renamed "Mickey Blake." In 1944, MGM discontinued Our Gang
, releasing the final short in the series, Dancing Romeo
. In 1995, Blake was honored by the Young Artist Foundation
with its Former Child Star "Lifetime Achievement" Award
for his role in Our Gang
In 1942, Blake appeared as "Tooky" Stedman in Andy Hardy's Double Life
Blake as "Little Beaver" in a Red Ryder
film serial chapter, ca. 1946
In 1944, Blake began playing an American Indian boy, "Little Beaver," in the Red Ryder western
series at the studios of Republic Pictures
(now CBS Radford Studios), appearing in twenty-three of the movies until 1947. He also had roles in one of Laurel and Hardy
's later films The Big Noise
(1944), and the Warner Bros.
(1946), playing John Garfield
's character as a child, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
(1948), playing the Mexican
boy who sells Humphrey Bogart
a winning lottery ticket and gets a glass of water thrown in his face by Bogart in the process. In 1950, at age 17, Blake appeared as Mahmoud in The Black Rose
and as Enrico, Naples Bus Boy (uncredited) in Black Hand
Career as an adult
In 1950, Blake was drafted
into the United States Army
. Upon leaving at the age of 21, he found himself without any job prospects and fell into a deep depression
. This led to a two-year addiction to heroin
. He also sold drugs.
Blake entered Jeff Corey
's acting class and began working on improving his personal and professional life. He eventually became a seasoned Hollywood
actor, playing notable dramatic roles in movies and on television. In 1956, he was billed as Robert Blake for the first time.
In 1959, in what was considered a career blunder, Blake turned down the role of Little Joe Cartwright
, a character ultimately portrayed by Michael Landon
, in NBC
's western television series Bonanza.
He did appear that year as Tobe Hackett in the episode "Trade Me Deadly" of the syndicated
western series 26 Men,
which dramatized true stories of the Arizona Rangers
. Blake also appeared twice as "Alfredo" in the syndicated western The Cisco Kid
and starred in "The White Hat" episode of Men of Annapolis,
another syndicated series. He appeared in three distinctive guest lead roles in the CBS
series Have Gun Will Travel
, as well as one-time guest roles on John Payne
's NBC western The Restless Gun
, Nick Adams
western The Rebel
, and in season 3, episode 25 of Bat Masterson
, the NBC western series The Californians
, the short-lived ABC adventure series Straightaway
, and the NBC western television series Laramie
As Baretta with Fred.
Blake may be best known for his Emmy Award
-winning role of Tony Baretta in the popular television series Baretta
(1975 to 1978), playing a street-wise, plain clothes police detective. The show's trademarks included Baretta's pet cockatoo
"Fred" and his signature phrases—notably "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time", "That's the name of that tune", and "You can take that to the bank."
ended, NBC offered to produce several pilot episodes of a proposed series titled Joe Dancer
, in which Blake would play the role of a hard-boiled private detective.
In addition to starring, Blake also was credited as the executive producer and creator.
Three television films aired on NBC
in 1981 and 1983, and the series never ultimately sold.
Marriages and children
Blake and actress Sondra Kerr
were married in 1961, and divorced in 1983. It was his first marriage, from which came two children: actor Noah Blake (born 1965) and Delinah Blake (born 1966).
In 1999, Blake met Bonnie Lee Bakley
, formerly of Wharton, New Jersey
, who had already been married nine times and reportedly had a history of exploiting older men, especially celebrities, for money.
She was dating Christian Brando
, the son of Marlon Brando
, during her relationship with Blake. Bakley became pregnant and told both Brando and Blake that her baby was theirs. Initially, Bakley named the baby "Christian Shannon Brando" and stated that Brando was the father.
Bakley wrote letters describing her dubious motives to Blake.
Blake insisted that she take a DNA
test to prove the paternity.
Blake became Bakley's tenth husband on November 19, 2000, after DNA
tests proved that Blake was the biological father of her child, who was renamed Rosie.
Blake remained married to Bakley until she was murdered on May 4, 2001.
In a March 2016 interview at age 82, Blake indicated he had a new woman in his life, who remained unnamed.
In 2017, Blake applied for a marriage license for his fiancée, Pamela Hudak, whom he had known for decades, and who had testified on his behalf at his trial.
On December 7, 2018, it was announced that Blake had filed for divorce.
Death of Bonnie Lee Bakley
On May 4, 2001, Blake took Bakley out for dinner at Vitello's Italian Restaurant at 4349 Tujunga Avenue in Studio City, California
. Bakley was fatally shot in the head while sitting in Blake's vehicle, which was parked on a side street around the corner from the restaurant, across the street and behind a dumpster next to a construction site. Blake claimed that he had returned to the restaurant to collect a pistol which he had left inside and claimed that he had not been present when the shooting took place. The pistol Blake claimed to have left in the restaurant was later found and determined by police not to be the murder weapon.
On April 18, 2002, Blake was arrested and charged with Bakley's murder. His longtime bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, was also arrested and charged with conspiracy
in connection with the murder. A key event that gave the Los Angeles Police Department
the confidence to arrest Blake came when a retired stuntman
, Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton, agreed to testify against him.
Hambleton alleged that Blake tried to hire him
to kill Bakley. Another retired stuntman and an associate of Hambleton's, Gary McLarty
, also came forward with a similar story.
According to author Miles Corwin, Hambleton had agreed to testify against Blake only after being told that he would be subject to a grand jury subpoena
and a misdemeanor
On April 22, 2002, Blake was charged with one count of murder with special circumstances
, an offense which carried a possible death penalty
. He was also charged with two counts of solicitation of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Blake entered a plea of not guilty.
On March 13, 2003, after almost a year in jail, Blake was granted bail, which was set at $1.5 million, and was allowed to go free to await trial. Blake was placed on house arrest
during this time. On October 31, in a major reversal for the prosecution, the judge dismissed the conspiracy charges against Blake and Caldwell during a pre-trial hearing.
The junior prosecutor who handled the case, Shellie Samuels, was interviewed by CBS reporter Peter Van Sant
for the CBS program 48 Hours Investigates
. During the interview, broadcast in November 2003, she admitted that the prosecutors had no forensic evidence implicating Blake in the murder and that they could not tie him to the murder weapon.
Trial and acquittal
Blake's criminal trial for murder began on December 20, 2004, with opening statements
by the prosecution and opening statements by the defense the following day.
The prosecution contended that Blake intentionally murdered Bakley to free himself from a loveless marriage, while the defense claimed that Blake was an innocent victim of circumstantial and fabricated evidence. McLarty and Hambleton each testified that Blake had asked them to murder Bakley. On cross-examination, the defense brought up McLarty's mental health problems and Hambleton's criminal history. The lack of gunshot residue on Blake's hands was a key part of the defense's case that Blake was not the shooter. Blake chose not to testify.
On March 16, 2005, Blake was found not guilty of murder and not guilty of one of the two counts of solicitation of murder. The other count, for solicitation to commit murder, was dropped after it was revealed that the jury was deadlocked 11–1 in favor of an acquittal. Los Angeles District Attorney Stephen Cooley, commenting on this ruling, called Blake "a miserable human being" and the jurors "incredibly stupid" to fall for the defense's claims.
Public opinion regarding the verdict was mixed, with some feeling that Blake was guilty, though many felt that there was not enough evidence to convict him.
On the night of his acquittal several fans celebrated at Blake's favorite haunt – and the scene of the crime – Vitello's.
Bakley’s three children filed a civil suit
against Blake, asserting that he was responsible for their mother's death. During the trial, the girlfriend of Blake's co-defendant Earle Caldwell said she believed Blake and Caldwell were involved in the crime.
On November 18, 2005, a jury found Blake liable for the wrongful death
of his wife and ordered him to pay $30 million.
On February 3, 2006, Blake filed for bankruptcy
Blake's attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach
, appealed the court’s decision on February 28, 2007.
On April 26, 2008, an appeals court upheld the civil case verdict, but cut Blake's penalty assessment to $15 million.
Blake has maintained a low profile since his acquittal and his filing for bankruptcy, with debts of $3 million for unpaid legal fees as well as state and federal taxes.
Due to his legal problems Blake has said that he might return to acting someday in order to help himself financially.
On April 9, 2010, the state of California filed a tax lien
against Blake for $1,110,878 in unpaid back taxes.
On July 16, 2012, Blake was interviewed on CNN
's Piers Morgan Tonight
. When Piers Morgan
asked Blake about the night of Bakley's murder, Blake became defensive and angry, stating he resented Morgan's questioning and felt he was being interrogated. Morgan responded he was only asking questions that he felt people were eager to have answered.
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- ^ a b c d e f g Newton, Michael (2008). Celebrities and crime. Infobase Publishing. pp. 84–90. ISBN 9780791094020. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
- ^ LeDuff, Charles (2005-03-05). "Actor's Trial, Complete With Pulp Novel Characters, Draws to a Close". The New York Times.
- ^ LeDuff, Charles (2005-03-17). "'Baretta' Star Acquitted of Murder in Wife's Death". The New York Times.
- ^ "Actor Is Ordered to Pay $30 Million in Killing". The New York Times. 2005-11-19.
- ^ Blake, Robert (2011). Tales of a Rascal: What I Did for Love. Black Rainbow Productions. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-61-559194-0.
- ^ King, Gary C. "Robert Blake and the Murder of Bonny Lee Bakley". Tru TV. p. 15. Archived from the original on 2009-05-02. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
- ^ Maltin, Leonard; Richard W. Bann (1992) . The Little Rascals: The Life & Times of Our Gang (Rev. ed.). Crown Publishing/Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-517-58325-9.
- ^ "16th Annual Youth in Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- ^ The Robert Blake Interview Playboy Magazine (June 1977)
- ^ ""The Kid from Hell's Kitchen" on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. October 20, 1966. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
- ^ "17 Years After Being Accused Of His Wife's Murder, Actor Robert Blake Opened Up About The Crime". January 9, 2020.
- ^ Group, Sinclair Broadcast (January 6, 2016). "Video Vault | Las Vegas connection to 'In Cold Blood'". KSNV.
- ^ "Robert Blake". Getty Images. 1975.
- ^ a b c Pitts, Michael R. (1991). Famous Movie Detectives II. Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 243. joe dancer robert blake.
- ^ "A Question Of Guilt: The Bakley Murder: Who Killed Bonny Lee Bakley?". CBS. 2002-08-05. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
- ^ a b King, Gary C. "Robert Blake and the Murder of Bonny Lee Bakley". Tru TV. p. 5. Archived from the original on 2009-05-02. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
- ^ "Excerpts from letters written by victim found in defendant's home". Court TV Online. 2003-03-06. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
- ^ Staff (15 March 2016). "Love At Any Age? 82-Year-Old Robert Blake Debuts New Mystery Lady". Radar Online. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- ^ "Robert Blake 83 to Marry Wife number 3". Inside Edition. March 14, 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
- ^ "Robert Blake Files For Divorce From Wife Pamela Hudak One Year After Getting Married". TMZ.
- ^ "Library". truTV.[permanent dead link]
- ^ "Stuntmen key witnesses vs. Blake". Court TV Online. 2002-04-25. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
- ^ Sweetingham, Lisa (2005-01-20). "Author: Police suspected Robert Blake hours after wife was slain". Court TV Online. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
- ^ Sweetingham, Lisa (2005-02-01). "Scene is set in Blake case; cue stuntmen". Court TV Online. Archived from the original on 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
- ^ a b c "The State v. Robert Blake".
- ^ "The State v. Robert Blake".
- ^ "Blake jurors want apology from D.A."Associated Press. 2005-03-25. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
- ^ Riley, John (2005-03-17). "Little motive, plenty doubt". Newsday. Archived from the original on 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
- ^ "Blake's Hollywood Ending: Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen Breaks Down Acquittals". CBS. 2005-03-16. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
- ^ "Fans Flock to Vitello's to Celebrate Verdict". Los Angeles Daily News. 2005-03-17. Retrieved 2009-01-16.
- ^ Dubin, Eric (October 1, 2007). The Star Chamber: How Celebrities Go Free and Their Lawyers Become Famous. Los Angeles: Phoenix Books. p. 180. ISBN 978-1597775533.
- ^ "CNN.com – Actor Blake liable in wife's death – Nov 18, 2005". CNN. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
- ^ Deutsch, Linda (2007-02-28). "Robert Blake appeals $30M civil verdict". Monterey County Herald. Retrieved 2007-04-02.[permanent dead link]
- ^ "Actor Blake loses US court appeal". BBC News. 2008-04-27.
- ^ "DETNEWS | Weblogs | Tax Watchdog". Archived from the original on 2010-07-24. Retrieved 2010-08-17.
- ^ Welkos, Robert W. (2005). "An Act 2 for Robert Blake?", digital archives of Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2005. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- ^ "Actor Robert Blake Hit with $1.1 Million Tax Lien". Webcpa.com. 2010-06-23. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
- ^ "Robert Blake on his murdered wife Bonnie Lee Bakley". CNN. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- Holmstrom, John. The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995, Norwich, Michael Russell, 1996, pp. 185–186.
- Dye, David. Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1988, p. 20-22.
Last edited on 13 May 2021, at 06:48
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