Robert Blake (actor)

From Academic Kids

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Baretta-dvd.jpg
Robert Blake on the cover of the Baretta Season 1 DVD set.

Robert Blake (born September 18, 1933) is an Italian-American actor most famous for starring in the US television series Baretta.

Contents

Biography

Early years

He was born Michael James Vijencio Gubitosi in Nutley, New Jersey, the son of James Gubitosi (January 14, 1906-August 15, 1956) and Elizabeth (born 1910). His brother was James Gubitosi (October 26, 1930-January 30, 1995) and his sister Jovanni Gubitosi.

His father was born in Italy, arriving in the United States in 1907, and his mother was Italian American born in New Jersey. They married in 1929. In 1930, James worked as a dye setter for a can manufacturer. Eventually, James and Elizabeth began a song-and-dance act. In 1936, the three children began performing, billed as "The Three Little Hillbillies." They moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1938. The children began working as movie extras.

Early film career

Mickey Gubitosi's acting career began when he appeared as Toto in the MGM movie Bridal Suite (1939) starring Annabella and Robert Young. Mickey then began appearing in MGM's Our Gang short subjects under his real name, replacing Eugene "Porky" Lee. He appeared in forty of the shorts between 1939 and 1944 and eventually becoming the series' final lead character. James and Jovanni Gubitosi also made appearances in the series as extras.

During his early Our Gang period, Gubitosi's character was often called upon to cry, and the young actor has been noted by some film critics as having been unsubtle and unconvincing (Maltin & Bann). In 1942, he acquired the stage name Bobby Blake, and his character in the series was renamed "Mickey Blake". In 1944, MGM discontinued Our Gang, relasing the final short in the series, Dancing Romeo, on April 29.

In 1944, Blake began playing an Indian boy, "Little Beaver," in the Red Ryder Western series at Republic Pictures, appearing in twenty-three of the movies until 1947. He also had roles in the Warner Bros. movies Humoresque (1946), playing John Garfield's character as a child, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), playing the Mexican boy who sells Bogart a winning lottery ticket.

According to Blake, he had an unhappy childhood with a miserable home life and was abused by an alcoholic father. When he entered public school at age ten, he could not understand why the other children were hostile to him. He had fights, which led to his expulsion. When he was fourteen, he ran away from home. The next few years were a reportedly difficult period in his life.

Adult Acting Career

In 1950, he went into the Army. When he returned to Southern California he entered Jeff Corey's acting class and began turning his life around, both personally and professionally. He matured and became a seasoned Hollywood actor, playing some choice dramatic roles in movies and television. In 1956, he was billed as Robert Blake for the first time.

Blake performed in numerous theatrical motion pictures as an adult, including his starring role in The Purple Gang (1960), a gangster movie, and featured roles in such movies as Ensign Pulver (1964) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). In 1967, he starred in his acclaimed role of real-life mass murderer Perry Smith in In Cold Blood, which was directed by Richard Brooks, who also adapted the story for the screen from the Truman Capote novel. Blake also starred in the role of an Indian fugitive in Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969) and as an obnoxious motorcycle highway patrolman in Electra Glide in Blue (1973).

He and actress Sondra Kerry were married in 1964 and divorced in 1983. They had two children, actor Noah Blake (born 1964) and Delinah Blake (born 1966).

Blake is probably best known for his Emmy Award-winning role of Tony Baretta in the popular TV series Baretta (1975 to 1978), in which he played an undercover police detective who specialized in disguises. Trademarks of the show include his pet cockatoo and a memorable theme song ("Don't do the crime if you can't do the time..."), which was written and performed by Sammy Davis, Jr.

He continued to act through the 1980s and 1990s, mostly in television, including the role of Jimmy Hoffa in the miniseries Blood Feud (1983) and John List in the murder drama Judgement Day: The John List Story (1993), which he received another Emmy for. He had character parts in the theatrical movies The Money Train (1995) and Lost Highway (1997).

Bonnie Lee Bakley and Legal Problems

In 1999, Blake met Bonnie Lee Bakley, reportedly a woman with a very shady past. She was seeing Christian Brando, son of Marlon Brando, before becoming acquainted with Blake. She then had a baby, Rose Lenore Sophia (born June 2, 2000). Blake and Bakley married November 19, 2000 after DNA tests proved that he was in fact the biological father of Rose.

Although they were married, it was unconventional. Bakley lived in a small guest house beside her husband's house in the Studio City area of the Valley.

On May 4, 2001, Blake took Bakley to an Italian dinner at Vitello's Restaurant on Tujunga Boulevard in Studio City. Afterward, Bakley was murdered by a gunshot to the head while sitting in the car, which was parked on a side street around the corner from the restaurant. Blake told the police that he had gone back to the restaurant to get a gun he left at the table and was there when the shooting occurred.

He was arrested on April 18, 2002, and charged in connection with the murder of his wife. His longtime bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, was also arrested and charged with conspiracy in connection with the murder.

On April 22, Blake was charged with one count of murder with special circumstances, an offense eligible for the death penalty. He was also charged with two counts of solicitation of murder and one count of murder conspiracy. Blake pled not guilty to all charges. Caldwell was charged with a single count of murder conspiracy and also pled not guilty.

On April 25, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office announced they would not seek the death penalty against Blake should he be convicted, but prosecutors would seek a sentence of life in prison without parole.

After Blake posted a $1 million bail, Caldwell was released on April 27. But a judge denied bail for Blake on May 1. On March 13, 2003, after almost a year in jail, Blake was granted bail, which was set at $1.5 million, and allowed to go free to await trial.

On March 16, 2005, Blake was found not guilty of the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley, and of one of the two counts of soliciting a former stuntman to murder her. The other count of solicitation was dropped after it was revealed that the jury was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of an acquittal. Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, commenting on this ruling, called Blake a "miserable human being" and the jurors "incredibly stupid". Blake's defense team and members of the jury responded that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.

See also: Roberto Emerick

References

  • Maltin, Leonard & Bann, Richard W (1977, rev. 1992). The Little Rascals: The Life & Times of Our Gang. New York: Crown Publishing/Three Rivers Press. ISBN 051-758325-9.


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