Robert Blake, ‘In Cold Blood’ actor once accused of murdering wife, dead at 89

Robert Blake, a controversial actor best known for his roles in the television series “Baretta” and the film “In Cold Blood,” is dead at 89.

The actor’s son, Noah Blake, confirmed his death Thursday to The Post. Blake’s family said he died of heart disease at home in LA.

Born Michael Gubitosi on Sept. 18, 1933, Blake’s six-decade Hollywood career was marred by accusations he killed his second wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

On May 4, 2001, the 44-year-old Bakley was shot and killed while sitting in Blake’s car outside of a Studio City restaurant where the couple had just dined.

Blake, who maintained his innocence, was acquitted of Bakley’s murder in 2005.

Blake died of heart disease in California, his niece announced Thursday.
Courtesy Everett Collection

After the trial, Blake told the Associated Press he hoped for a career resurgence.

“I’d like to give my best performance,” he said in 2006. “I’d like to leave a legacy for [daughter] Rosie about who I am. I’m not ready for a dog and fishing pole yet. I’d like to go to bed each night desperate to wake up each morning and create some magic.”

Blake rose to fame as a child actor, appearing in the “Our Gang” short film series.

His most notable role was in the 1967 adaptation of Truman Capote’s true-crime book “In Cold Blood.”

He also starred in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), “Electra Glide in Blue” (1973) and “Lost Highway” (1997), his final film.

Blake scored a Primetime Emmy Award in 1975 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “Baretta,” in which he played the titular character, Det. Tony Baretta, for four seasons.

Robert Blake in Baretta
The former child actor played a street-smart detective in “Baretta.”
Courtesy Everett Collection

His hard-nosed cop character — whose faithful companion was a talkative pet cockatoo Fred — had several oft-repeated catchphrases, including “That’s the name of that tune,” “You can take that to the bank” and “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

Blake also received three other Emmy nominations.

Out of his three nominations for a Golden Globe, he only received one in 1976 for Best Actor in a Television Series (Drama), again for his rugged role in “Baretta.”

In Cold Blood movie still of Robert Blake
The dramatic crime film “In Cold Blood” featured Blake as Perry Smith.
Courtesy Everett Collection

But his Hollywood journey was rocked with controversy when the actor was arrested in connection to Bakley’s murder.

Prosecutors claimed he tried to hire hitmen to kill Bakley, whom he married in 2000 because she had become pregnant with his baby. The jury was unconvinced.

Eight months after his acquittal, in November 2005, a civil jury found Blake liable for Bakley’s death and ordered him to pay her family $30 million — which left him bankrupt.

“If you want to know how to go through $10 million in five years, ask me how,” he told the media after the verdict, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “I was a rich man. I’m broke now.”

His acting career, however, remained stagnant, with his final performance in the 1997 film “Lost Highway,” co-starring Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette, according to his IMDb page.

Robert Blake holding Emmy
Blake earned an Emmy for his role as the titular character in “Baretta” in 1975.
Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

In 2019, Rose Lenore, the daughter of Blake and Bakley, told People that she was following in her actor father’s footsteps, saying she loved “getting to be someone else” when performing.

Rose described her childhood as “complicated” – she wasn’t even a year old when her mother died.

Until the time of the People interview, she hadn’t seen Blake since she was a small child, raised by her half-sister Delinah.

“When Rosie was 2 weeks old, I held her in my hands, and I asked God to take care of her ’cause I’m an old man and tomorrow is guaranteed to nobody,” Blake told CBS News in 2003. “I said, ‘God, if you please take care of Rosie, I will never, ever ask you anything again for the rest of my life.’”

robert Blake in court room
In 2001, his wife was murdered and he was charged – then later acquitted – for the crime.
Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

In 2019, Blake suggested his own upbringing was chaotic, telling “20/20” that his father was a “lunatic” and that Blake’s success brought out animosity in him.

“The more success I got, the more he wanted to kill me,” he claimed, according to USA Today.

“I was always at least 50% self-destructive, but when I wasn’t working, I couldn’t stand the way I felt,” he also told the program of his own inner issues.

“Bipolar? I was tri-polar. I was quad-polar. Who the hell knows what kind of polar I was? I had 35 different feelings in five minutes. I was nuts when I was away from the camera.” 

Blake is survived by his three children: Rose, Delinah and Noah.

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