Robert Blake Is Dead – Robert Blake, the celebrated actor who had a long and diverse career in Hollywood, has passed away due to heart disease at the age of 89. Blake’s niece, Noreen Austin, confirmed the news of his passing. I spent many an evening watching “Baretta” with my Dad in the 70’s. Awe man the memories…
Blake began his acting career at the young age of 5, with a stint in “Our Gang”. Over the course of more than six decades, he went on to star in numerous classic films and television shows, including the iconic Humphrey Bogart film “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” in 1948 and the 1967 crime drama “In Cold Blood”. Blake also appeared in a variety of studio Westerns during the 1940s under the stage name “Bobby Blake”. His final feature film role was in David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” in 1997.
In television, Blake is best known for his role as streetwise undercover detective Tony Baretta in the hit series “Baretta”, which aired on ABC from 1975 to 1978. He won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1975 for his portrayal of Baretta and was nominated again for the role in 1977. Blake also earned two other Emmy nominations during his career, for lead actor in the miniseries “Blood Feud” in 1983 and “Judgment Day: The John List Story” in 1993.
Robert Blake Is Dead
“Baretta” was created by prolific TV writer-creator Stephen J. Cannell and featured the memorable theme song “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow,” sung by Sammy Davis Jr. It was a spinoff from another ABC crime drama, “Toma”, which debuted in 1973. When the show’s star, Tony Mustane, grew tired of the weekly production schedule, ABC decided to recast Blake in the role and retitle the series “Toma Starring Robert Blake”. A few format tweaks later, “Baretta” was born. The show debuted as a replacement show in January 1975 and finished its first season in the Top 25 among primetime shows. It leapt into the Top 10 for Season 2, fueled by the lead character’s catchphrases including “And that’s the name of that tune” and “You can take that to the bank,” but would be canceled in 1978 after 80-plus episodes.
Despite his successful career, Blake’s personal life was marred by controversy. In 2001, his second wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was found shot to death outside of Vitello’s restaurant in the San Fernando Valley after the couple had dined there. Blake told police that he had gone back into the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he’d left on the floor of their booth. Blake was charged with Bakley’s murder in 2002, along with solicitation of murder, conspiracy, and special circumstances of lying in wait.
Blake’s trial, which lasted three months, was widely watched and highly publicized. The actor wept into the shoulder of his lawyer after the jury acquitted him of the charges in 2005. The seven men and five women found him not guilty of soliciting a former stunt double whom he met on the “Baretta” set to kill his wife. Bakley’s children won a wrongful-death suit against Blake shortly thereafter, but her killing officially remains unsolved.
During the trial, details of the couple’s unhappy marriage became sensational news fodder. It was revealed that Bakley had at least a dozen aliases and ten former husbands. The defense contended that she had trapped Blake into an unloving marriage by becoming pregnant with his child after first claiming that the father was Christian Brando, son of Oscar winner Marlon Brando. Thus, the motive for Blake, who referred to his wife as a “pig,” was established. But the jury didn’t believe the stuntman’s testimony, thanks to his history of drug abuse.
Despite his controversial personal life and the dark cloud that surrounded the murder trial of his wife, Robert Blake’s legacy as an actor cannot be denied. His talent and versatility were evident in the vast range of roles he played over the course of his career, from a child actor in “Our Gang” to a tough-talking detective in “Baretta” to a mysterious character in David Lynch’s “Lost Highway.”
His Emmy win for “Baretta” cemented his status as a leading man of television, and his appearances on “The Tonight Show” and in commercials only added to his popularity. He was a true Hollywood icon, one who will be remembered for his contributions to the entertainment industry for generations to come.
Blake’s passing is a sad moment for fans of his work, but his legacy lives on through the countless performances he gave on both the big and small screens. His influence on the industry cannot be overstated, and his memory will continue to inspire future generations of actors and entertainers.
As his family and loved ones mourn his loss, we celebrate Robert Blake’s life and his incredible career. He will be remembered as one of the greats, a true talent who left an indelible mark on Hollywood. Rest in peace, Robert Blake.