Robert Blake, noted actor and Emmy-winner who starred in crime series “Baretta,” has died, according to his daughter, Delinah Blake Hurwitz. He was 89.
Delinah Blake Hurwitz told CNN in an email that her father died “peacefully” on Thursday “surrounded by family.”
Robert Blake died in Los Angeles from heart disease, according to his niece Noreen Austin, who released an obituary notice via a representative.
Over the course of more than 60 years working as a professional actor, Robert Blake amassed a number of memorable credits, including 1967’s “In Cold Blood” and David Lynch’s 1997 film “Lost Highway,” the actor’s final screen credit.
In 2001, Robert Blake’s second wife Bonny Lee Bakley was found murdered in the San Fernando Valley. In 2005, the actor was acquitted of murder charges relating to the case. He later lost a civil suit brought forth by Bakley’s children.
Robert Blake, born in Nutley, New Jersey on September 18, 1933, went by his birth name of Michael Gubitosi until 1942. He got his start in Hollywood as a child actor in the “Our Gang” movie shorts in 1939 as Mickey, one of the Little Rascals, continuing under the name of “Bobby Blake” in various “Our Gang” shorts until the early ’40s.
He starred in his first film in 1942 as Daniel ‘Mokey’ Delano in “Mokey,” about a troubled young boy navigating life at home with his father and stepmother. In 1948, he appeared in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” which costarred the legendary Humphrey Bogart.
In 1967, Robert Blake starred as Perry in the film “In Cold Blood,” based on Truman Capote’s 1965 novel of the same name, about the murder of a family in Holcomb, Kansas.
Robert Blake later went on to star in the 1970s television crime series “Baretta.” He won an Emmy Award for his role on the show, in which he played the title character, a New York City undercover detective. The series aired for four seasons on ABC from 1975-1978.
His other notable credits include the 1960s series “Rawhide,” the 1981 TV movie “Of Mice and Men” and 1995’s “Money Train” with Woody Harrelson and Jennifer Lopez.
On May 4, 2001, Robert Blake’s wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was found shot in the head in his car after eating at Vitello’s, a neighborhood restaurant in Studio City. Robert Blake said at the time that the murder occurred while he had briefly returned to the restaurant.
Robert Blake was arrested in April 2002 on charges of first degree murder with special circumstances and two counts of solicitation of murder. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.
That same year, the administrators of Bakley’s estate filed a civil wrongful death suit against Robert Blake, seeking unspecified damages on behalf of Bakley’s four children.
In March of 2005, Robert Blake was acquitted of the murder of Bakley in the criminal proceedings, but was found liable in the wrongful death civil suit brought by Bakley’s children. The actor was ordered to pay $30 million in damages to her family. The amount of damages awarded to Bakley’s children was later reduced to $15 million after Robert Blake’s lawyers appealed the civil suit, but the Los Angeles court upheld the wrongful death verdict.
In 2011, Robert Blake published a memoir titled “Tales of a Rascal: What I Did for Love.” He appeared on CNN in an interview with Piers Morgan in 2012 to promote the book and accused Morgan of calling him a “liar” when questioned about Bakley’s murder.
He maintained his innocence in connection to the murder of his wife.
Gerry Schwartzbach, who represented Robert Blake during the trial, told CNN in a statement that the actor “was a complicated man.”
“He and I spent parts of virtually every day together over the year I lived in LA working on his case. We had a strong bond,” the attorney said. “I am saddened by his passing, but glad that he is no longer suffering.”
According to his family’s statement, in recent years, Robert Blake lived quietly in the Los Angeles area. In lieu of flowers, his family requests that donations be made to City of Hope.
Blake is survived by his three children Rose Bakley, Delinah Blake Hurwitz and Noah Blake.