Actor Robert Blake, acquitted of wife’s murder, dies aged 89

Robert Blake — an award-winning actor best known for starring in 1970s TV dramas before his wife’s murder trial captured national attention — has died at his Los Angeles home, according to his family. He was 89.

He “died peacefully surrounded by family by his side,” his niece, Noreen Austin, said in a statement Thursday. The cause of his death was heart disease, Austin said.

Blake’s most prominent role was playing the savvy New York City undercover detective, fond of disguises, Tony Baretta, who carried a pet cockatoo on his shoulder, in the cop series “Baretta,” which ran on ABC from 1975 to 1978. This role earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1975 and a Golden Globe Award in 1976.

He previously had roles in films such as “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” a 1948 western starring Humphrey Bogart, and “In Cold Blood,” a 1967 adaptation of the popular Truman Capote book.

Off screen, however, Blake’s acting career was overshadowed by his involvement in the 2001 murder case of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

Blake told police that after having dinner at a restaurant in Los Angeles, he had gone back to the restaurant to retrieve a gun he had left there – and returned to find his wife, 44, bleeding from gunshot wounds in their nearby car.

Prosecutors claimed he had tried to hire hitmen to kill his wife before eventually committing the crime himself. Blake did not take the stand in his criminal trial and always maintained his innocence. After a sensational three-month trial in 2005, which attracted considerable media attention, he was acquitted.

However, in a later civil wrongful death lawsuit brought by Bakley’s family, a jury found him liable for his wife’s death. He was ordered to pay $30 million, an amount that was later reduced. Blake filed for bankruptcy.

Bert I. Gordon, whose B-movies gained a cult following, dies at 100

Born Michael James Gubitosi on September 18, 1933, in Nutley, New Jersey, Blake moved to California at a young age with his parents and family, according to the Associated Press.

He broke into Hollywood at age five, dancing in shows with his two siblings before catching the eye of studio casting directors who cast him in the short-lived comedy series “Our Gang,” also known as “The Little Rascals”. .” That role helped launch his career, as he went on to star in more than 200 feature films and shorts, according to his family. He also served briefly in the Army.

His last prominent acting role was in David Lynch’s 1997 film, “Lost Highway,” about a man accused of killing his wife.

In 2011, Blake wrote a memoir titled “Tales of a Rascal: What I Did for Love” detailing his career and life. Shortly after, he appeared on CNN, where he told British journalist Piers Morgan that he had no particular desire to discuss the case, telling Morgan that his wife’s death “is not the most significant thing in my life.”

In later years, Blake lived in Los Angeles and enjoyed jazz, playing guitar and reading poetry, his family said.

Robert Blake and Piers Morgan star in a TV interview

Timothy Bella contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: