Robert Blake, one of the most iconic and controversial actors of his generation, has died at the age of 89. We are saddened to report that. He passed away from heart disease on March 9, 2023, according to a statement put out by his family.
Blake was best known for his Emmy-winning role as Tony Baretta in the hit 70s TV show Baretta. His portrayal of Perry Smith in the film adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1967 film In Cold Blood. And his unsettling role in David Lynch’s 1997 cult classic Lost Highway. He also appeared in many other films and TV shows throughout his long and varied career.
While he was an accomplished and highly celebrated actor, Blake’s life was also marked by scandal and tragedy. He was accused of violently murdering his second wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, in 2001. But, he was acquitted by a criminal jury in 2005. He was eventually found liable for her wrongful death by a civil jury. Then, he was ordered to pay a whopping $30 million to her children.
In this video, we will take a look at Blake’s life and career, including his achievements and controversies. We will also pay tribute to his legacy as an actor who left an indelible mark on American culture.
Facts Verse Presents: Robert Blake’s Cause of Death is Utterly Tragic
Blake’s Rise To Fame
Robert Blake was born Michael James Gubitosi on September 18, 1933, in Nutley, New Jersey. His parents were Italian immigrants who worked as vaudeville performers. His father was an alcoholic who abandoned the family when Blake was six years old. And his mother was a violent woman who beat him and his siblings regularly. She also forced him to work as a child actor since he was two years old. Blake later said that he was unsure of his precise date of birth, believing it fell sometime in either September or October.
Blake started his acting career as a child in 1939, when he joined the cast of Our Gang, AKA The Little Rascals, a series of comedy shorts featuring a group of mischievous kids. He played Mickey, one of the gang members, until 1942. He then appeared in several other films and TV shows as a child actor, such as 1942s Mokey, 1949s The Red Pony, 1952s The Treasure of Lost Canyon, and 1954s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
Physical And Emotional Trauma
Blake suffered from physical and emotional trauma because of his childhood. He had nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks. Also, he developed a rebellious and distrustful personality. He said he hated his parents and wanted to kill them. He also hated Hollywood and the people who allegedly exploited him. Tragically, he often expressed that he felt lonely and misunderstood by everyone.
Blake tried to escape from his abusive childhood by joining the army when he was 17 years old. He served in the Korean War for two years, but he did not find peace there either. He only saw more violence and death, which added to his trauma.
Blake returned to Hollywood after his military service, but he changed his name to Robert Blake to distance himself from his past. He also tried to find more challenging and meaningful roles as an actor. He was quoted as saying that acting was his therapy and his salvation.
First Adult Role In 1959s
Blake’s first adult role was in 1959s The Purple Gang, where he played a gangster. He then served in the U.S. Army for two years before returning to Hollywood. He gained recognition for his roles in films such as 1961s Town Without Pity, 1963s PT 109, 1965s The Greatest Story Ever Told and the 1966 film This Property Is Condemned.
Blake’s big breakthrough came in 1967, when he starred as Perry Smith, one of the two killers who murdered a Kansas family in In Cold Blood, based on Truman Capote’s book of the same name. Blake’s performance was widely praised by critics and audiences alike for its intensity and realism. He received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for his role.
After In Cold Blood, Blake continued to act in films and TV shows, such as 1969s Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, 1972s Corky, 1973s Electra Glide in Blue, and 1990s The Godfather Part III. However, he became best known for his role as Tony Baretta, a streetwise detective who often went undercover to solve crimes, in the hit television series Baretta which aired from 1975 to 1978. He ended up winning an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in 1975.
Robert Blake’s role in David Lynch’s 1997 cult classic Lost Highway was a cameo appearance as a mysterious character known only as The Mystery Man. He was a pale-faced man with shaved eyebrows and black hair who claimed to be at two places at once and seemed to have supernatural powers. He appeared in several scenes throughout the film, often interacting with Fred Madison, played by Bill Pullman, a jazz saxophonist who was accused of murdering his wife.
Blake’s performance in Lost Highway was praised by critics and fans for its creepiness and ambiguity. He said that he accepted the role because he admired David Lynch’s work and always wanted to work with him. He also said that he did not need any makeup for his appearance, as he had shaved his eyebrows himself after his wife’s death.
Lost Highway was Blake’s last film role before his arrest and trial for murder. He did not act again after later being acquitted. The film has since become a cult classic among Lynch’s fans and is considered one of his most complex and surreal works.
Blakes acting career came to an abrupt halt after he was accused of brutally murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, on May 4, 2001. Bakley was shot to death in Blake’s car outside a restaurant where they had just dined. Blake insisted that he had left her alone in the car to retrieve a gun he had forgotten inside the restaurant and that he found her wounded when he returned. He evidently called 911 and tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Blake was arrested almost a year later, on April 18, 2002, and charged with murder, conspiracy, and solicitation of murder. The prosecution alleged that Blake had hired two men to kill his wife, but that they backed out at the last minute. The prosecution also presented evidence that Blake disliked his wife, whom he married after she became pregnant with his child. Bakley had a history of fraud and deception, and had pursued relationships with other celebrities before Blake.
Blake’s trial began on December 20, 2004. His defense team argued that he was innocent and that the police had ignored other possible suspects, such as Bakley’s former husbands and associates. They also questioned the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses, who had criminal records or motives to lie. The defense also presented several alibi witnesses who testified that they saw Blake inside the restaurant at the time of the shooting.
On March 16, 2005, after a three-month-long trial, a jury acquitted Blake of all charges. The jury said they found reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case and did not believe their key witnesses.
However, Blake’s legal troubles were not over. He faced a civil lawsuit filed by Bakley’s children, who accused him of wrongful death. A civil jury eventually found him liable for Bakley’s death on November 18, 2005, and ordered him to pay $30 million in damages. The amount was later reduced to $15 million by an appeals court.
Robert Blake’s life after his acquittal was not easy. He lost most of his fortune on his legal fees and debts, and had to sell his house and belongings. Reportedly, he lived on social security and a Screen Actor’s Guild pension. He also had to file for bankruptcy after his deceased wife’s family filed that civil suit against him.
Blake tried to revive his acting career, but he did not get any offers from Hollywood, who viewed him as a pariah. He said he hoped to give his best performance again, but he only appeared in a few low-budget films and documentaries.
Blake additionally wrote an autobiography titled Tales of a Rascal: What I Did for Love in 2017, where he shared his stories of growing up in poverty, becoming a child star, working with famous directors and actors, marrying four times, and facing trial for murder.
Various Health Problems
Blake suffered from various health problems in his later years, such as diabetes, dementia, prostate cancer, and heart disease. He said he was lonely and depressed, and that he had no friends or family except for his daughter Rose Lenore Sophia Blake, whom he had with Bonny Lee Bakley. He said he loved her very much and wanted to protect her from the media attention.
Blake died from heart disease on March 9th, 2023 at age 89. At the time of his death, he was surrounded by family at home in Los Angeles. In a statement she released following Blake’s passing, his niece Noreen Austin said that he “lived life on his own terms”.
Hollywood and the media had mixed reactions to Robert Blake’s death. Some outlets focused on his acting career and his roles in films such as In Cold Blood and TV shows like Baretta, while others highlighted his murder trial and his controversial personal life.
Robert Blake will be remembered in different ways by different people. Some will remember him as a talented actor who rose from poverty and abuse to become a star in Hollywood. Others will remember him as a murderer who got away with his crime.
How will you remember Robert Blake? Let us know in the comments!