Robert Blake, Controversial Actor Accused of Murder, Dies at 89

Robert Blake, who was perhaps best known to audiences for starring in the film adaptation of In Cold Blood and the TV series Baretta, has died. He was 89. Deadline brings word of his passing, confirming the news via his niece. Blake began his career in Hollywood as a child actor, working through seven decades on film and in television from the 1930s through the 1990s, his final appearance being in David Lynch’s Lost Highway in 1997. After his acting career had concluded however, Blake found himself making headlines once again when he was accused and tried for murdering his second wife in 2005.

Born in Nutley, New Jersey in 1933, Blake would start his acting career at a young age, starring in MGM’s Our Gang series of shorts (the recurring series that would become known as “The Little Rascals”). Blake would play the part of “Mickey” in the shorts, appearing in forty of them across a five year span. After the Our Gang series concluded, Blake would quickly pick up another series, starring as “Little Beaver” in the series of Red Ryder western films, appearing in 23 of the movies.

Blake’s film career would take a backseat to working in television across the 1950s and 60s, though he still continued to work in both, naturally appearing in western TV shows on the small screen. Some of the shows that he appeared in at the time included The Restless Gun, The Californian, Black Saddle, Rawhide, and The F.B.I. In 1967 he would star in the feature film adaptation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, playing the ex-convict Perry Smith, who worked with a partner to rob and murder a family in Kansas. Though Blake wasn’t nominated for his performance, the film was a major success and earned four Academy Award nominations.

In the 1970s Blake would take on his biggest role, playing Detective Anthony Vincenzo “Tony” Baretta in the ABC detective series Baretta, which popularized the saying “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” He would appear in all 82 episodes of the show, winning a Primetime Emmy Award for his portrayal.

Though largely retired, Blake was once again the subject of media scrutiny in 2002 when he was accused of murdering his second wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Bakley was shot and killed while sitting in Blake’s car outside of a restaurant in Studio City, California. After a lengthy trial, Blake was found not guilty in 2005 by a jury. Afterward however, Blake was found liable in a wrongful death suit brought by Bakley’s children, and was ordered to pay $30 million, later cut down to $15 million.

(Cover Photo by Mike FANOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)