Actor Robert Blake, Who Was Innocent Of Killing His Wife, Died At Age 89

Robert Blake, an Emmy Award-winning actor who gained prominence after being prosecuted for the murder of his wife but found not guilty, passed away on Thursday at the age of 89.

Blake passed away from heart illness in his Los Angeles home, surrounded by family, according to a statement issued on behalf of his niece Noreen Austin.

Blake, the star of the 1970s television series "Baretta," once harboured hopes for a comeback, but he was never able to move past the difficult circumstances that started with the shooting death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, on May 4, 2001, in front of a Studio City restaurant. Their peculiar union, the child it produced, and its dramatic breakdown were all played out in court like a Hollywood tragedy.

Blake was once regarded as one of the best actors of his time, but he is now better renowned for being the subject of a weird real-life murder trial. Rather than the tough, dark-haired star of "Baretta," many people thought of him as a ghostly, white-haired murder suspect.

He lamented the deterioration in his relationship with his supporters all over the world in a 2002 interview with The Associated Press while he was in jail awaiting trial: "That stung because America is the only family I had."

He insisted vehemently that he had not murdered his wife, and a jury finally found him not guilty. Nonetheless, a civil jury would hold him responsible for her passing and demand that he provide Bakley's family $30 million; this verdict forced him into bankruptcy. Rose Lenore, the daughter he and Bakley shared, was raised by other family members and didn't speak to Blake for years until 2019. She would admit to calling dad "Robert" rather than "Dad" to People magazine.

It was a disgraceful end to a life that had been lived in the spotlight very early on. He appeared in the comedies starring "Our Gang" as a child and performed in the classic film "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." He received plaudits for his portrayal of real-life killer Perry Smith in the film adaptation of Truman Capote's best-selling true crime novel "In Cold Blood" as an adult.

"Baretta," a TV cop series, was the pinnacle of his career from 1975 until 1978. He played a detective who enjoyed disguising himself and carried a pet cockatoo on his shoulder. His trademark remark, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time," was often referenced because it was indicative of his style, which featured tough guys with gentle hearts.

Although the show was plagued by problems concerning the erratic actor behind the scenes, Blake received an Emmy in 1975 for his depiction of Tony Baretta. He developed a reputation for being both one of Hollywood's best actors and one of the hardest to deal with. Later, he acknowledged that he had battled early alcohol and drug addiction.

Blake received a second Emmy award in 1993 for his performance as the title character in "Judgment Day: The John List Story," in which he portrayed a devout Christian who murdered his wife and three children.

Before the trial, Blake's career had already started to stall. From the mid-1980s, he only made a small number of screen appearances; his final work was 1997's "Lost Highway" by David Lynch. Blake had recently "enjoyed jazz music, playing his guitar, reading poetry, and seeing many Hollywood classic films," according to his niece.

Michael James Gubitosi was born on September 18, 1933 in Nutley, New Jersey. His mother, an Italian American, and his father, an immigrant from Italy, both wanted their three children to be successful in the entertainment industry. At age 2, Blake was a member of the family vaudeville show "The Three Little Hillbillies" alongside his brother and sister.

Little Mickey Gubitosi was chosen from the crowd by filmmakers who put him in the "Our Gang" comedies after his parents relocated the family to Los Angeles and his mother sought work for the youngsters as movie extras. He adopted the name Bobby Blake and starred in the show for five years.

In 1946's "Humoresque," he played a young John Garfield, and in the Academy Award-winning "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," he played the young kid who sells Humphrey Bogart a key lottery ticket. He later collaborated with Hollywood superstars.

He was able to get important movie parts as an adult. The largest innovation came with "In Cold Blood" in 1967. Subsequently, movies like "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here" and "Electra Glide in Blue" were released.

Blake married the actress Sondra Kerr in 1961, and the couple had two kids: Noah and Delilah. In 1983, they got divorced.

In 1999, he went to a jazz club to get away from loneliness, when he had his fateful encounter with Bakley.

"I was perhaps 67 or 68 years of age. I had put my life on hold. My career has stagnated, "In the AP interview, he stated. I had been by myself for a while.

"She hauled me out of the stands and put me back in the arena," he claimed, adding that he had no reason to resent Bakley. "I had a goal to strive for."

Bakley designated Christian Brando, Marlon Brando's son, as the father of her daughter. Yet Blake was identified by DNA tests.

When the infant girl, Rosie, was just two months old, Blake first met her, and she quickly came to dominate his thoughts. In order to have the child, he married Bakley.

"Rosie is part of me. I can hear Rosie beckoning me "said he. "I'm sure Rosie and I will ride off into the distance together," he said.

The prosecution would contend that he attempted to hire hitmen for the murder of Bakley in order to gain sole custody of the child. A jury, however, rejected that theory because the evidence was contradictory.

Blake and his 44-year-old wife had dinner at Vitello's, a nearby eatery, on her final night of life. He claimed she was shot when he accidently left her in the car and went back to the restaurant to get a weapon. Blake was not detained by police until a year after the crime because they were originally perplexed by it.

He was formerly wealthy, but after spending millions on his defence, he was forced to live on social security and a pension from the Screen Actors Guild.

A year after his acquittal, Blake expressed his desire to rebuild his career in an interview with the AP in 2006.

I'd like to perform as well as I can," he declared. "With Rosie, I want to leave a lasting impression of who I am. I'm still not prepared to own a dog and a fishing pole. I'd like to go to bed each night, desperate to wake up each morning and create some magic."

Actor Robert Blake, Who Was Innocent Of Killing His Wife, Died At Age 89

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