Robert Blake
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Controversial ‘Baretta’ star Robert Blake dies

Actor Robert Blake, best known for his TV portrayal of the titular detective “Baretta,” has died at the age of 89. His long career was overshadowed by accusations he murdered his wife, for which he was acquitted.

Actor Robert Blake dead at 89

Actor Robert Blake, who was propelled to fame during the 1970s in the TV detective series “Baretta,” became more infamous after being charged with the murder of his wife.

Blake’s daughter, Delinah Blake Hurwitz announced that her father died “peacefully” in Los Angeles “surrounded by his family.”

According to Blake’s niece, who released an obituary notice via a representative, he died from heart disease, the Associated Press reported.

A look back at Blake’s career

Robert Blake was born Michael James Vijencio Gubitosi in Nutley, New Jersey, on September 18, 1933.

As an actor, Blake has 163 credits. Blake got his start in Hollywood as a child actor in the “Our Gang” movie shorts in 1939, portraying “Mickey,” one of the “Little Rascals” where he was billed under the name “Bobby Blake,” and continued until the early 1940s, CNN reported.

His film career was briefly interrupted in 1950, when he was drafted into the United States Army. Afterward, he suffered a two-year addiction to heroin and cocaine. Taking acting classes, he reinvigorated his acting career.

He turned down the role of Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza. However, he appeared in numerous television series in various roles.

Blake’s breakout movie role came in the quadruple-Oscar-nominated 1967 film “In Cold Blood,” based on the novel by Truman Capote in which Blake portrayed real-life murderer Perry Smith.

In 1975, Blake portrayed Detective Tony Beretta in the series “Baretta” which became a major hit, winning Blake and the show numerous nominations and awards.

Blake’s next notable role was as a motorcycle cop in Electra Glide in Blue (1973). His last movie role was also a standout, playing the mystery man in 1997’s “Lost Highway.”


Overall, Blake garnered a number of award nominations and won 7 awards. He won a Primetime Emmy in 1975 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Beretta, as well as was nominated in 1977, 1983, and 1993. In 1976, Blake won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series for Beretta. He was nominated for Best Actor in A Motion Picture Drama in 1974 for the film Electra Glide in Blue (1973).

Murder accusation overshadows acting career

Robert Blake’s lengthy and noteworthy acting career became overshadowed by the shooting death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, outside a Studio City restaurant on May 4, 2001, BBC reported. Blake was accused of her murder, and their strange marriage, as well as a child custody battle, played out in court as a Hollywood tragedy. Blake adamantly maintained his innocence but was arrested and charged on April 18, 2002. His trial began on December 20, 2004.

In the trial, a retired stuntman, Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton, testified against Blake, alleging the actor tried to hire him to kill his wife. Another stuntman, Gary McLarty, an associate of Hambleton’s, came forward with a similar story.

On March 16, 2005, Blake was found not guilty of murder and not guilty of one of the two counts of solicitation of murder.

However, on November 18, 2005, in a wrongful death civil suit filed by Bakley’s three children, a jury found Blake liable for the wrongful death of his wife, and he was ordered to pay $30 million. On February 3, 2006, Blake filed for bankruptcy.