HomeAmerican EntertainmentRobert Blake, ‘In Cold Blood’ Star, Dead at 89

Robert Blake, ‘In Cold Blood’ Star, Dead at 89

by Joe Rutland
robert blake photo
(Photo by Brian To/FilmMagic)

Actor Robert Blake, who starred in the 1967 classic film In Cold Blood and Treasure of the Sierra Madre in 1948, has died at the age of 89, Deadline reports. The controversial actor died from heart disease in Los Angeles, his niece Noreen Austin confirmed to the outlet.

Try Paramount+ FREE for a week. Subscribe here to watch your favorite shows.

Blake was born Michael James Gubitosi on Sept. 18, 1933 in Nutley, New Jersey. He began acting at a young age with his two siblings as the “The Three Little Hillbillies.” His family moved to California in 1938, and Blake, along with his siblings, worked as movie extras in Los Angeles.

The actor’s career spanned over six decades. This included his lead role in the Our Gang (Little Rascals) short film series starting in 1939 to his final feature film in David Lynch’s Lost Highway in 1997, Rolling Stone reports.

Robert Blake Won Emmy Award For ‘Baretta’ Role In 1977

In 1977, Blake won an Emmy Award For Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of New York City undercover detective Tony Baretta in Baretta. The television show ran from 1975 to 1978 on ABC.

He also earned two more Emmy nominations for his career. It was for the lead actor in the miniseries Blood Feud (1983) and Judgment Day: The John List Story (1993). 

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, that debuted in 1973. But its star, Tony Mustane, grew weary of the weekly production grind, so ABC brass decided to recast Blake in the role and retitle the series Toma Starring Robert Blake. But a few format tweaks later, Baretta was born.

TV Series Was Among Top 10 Shows In Its Second Season

The series 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.” The show was canceled in 1978 after 80-plus episodes.

Meanwhile, in 2001, Blake found himself involved in a highly publicized trial. Blake gets charged with the murder of his second wife Bonny Lee Bakley. The three-month trial ended in a jury acquitting Blake in 2005.

Blake wrote his memoir, “The Life of Rascal: What I Did for Love,” in 2012. He lived a quiet life in Southern California. Finally, his family requests that donations be made to City of Hope.