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Robert Blake

Robert BlakeAKA Michael James Vijencio Gubitosi

Born: 18-Sep-1933
Birthplace: Nutley, NJ

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Baretta

Military service: US Army

Robert Blake's parents were a song and dance performing team who incorporated their children into their act, and they hit the jackpot with little Mickey Gubitosi, as he was then called. His precocious stage demeanor earned the boy his first film role at age five, in Bridal Suite with Robert Young, and soon he was a regular in the "Our Gang" movies, known in television reruns as the "Little Rascals".

As a teenager, Blake played "Little Beaver" in 23 "Red Ryder" feature films, between 1944's Tucson Raiders with Gabby Hayes and 1947's Marshall of Cripple Creek with Allan Lane. Blake claims he was severely abused as a child, physically, sexually, and emotionally. He said that his parents "locked me in a closet and left me there all day long", and that they "made me eat on the floor like a dog". He was expelled from five schools, and was drafted into the military as a teen. After his Army stint, Blake returned to Hollywood, where he worked as an actor and stuntman. He says that attending acting classes, even after his early experience as an actor, turned his life around. Blake worked his way back up from small roles to important ones; he played a rapist/soldier in Town without Pity with Kirk Douglas. He starred in Truman Capote's chilling In Cold Blood, as a loser destined for violence. In the 1969 Robert Redford western Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, Blake was Willie Boy.

While filming The Greatest Story Ever Told (with Max von Sydow as Jesus and Blake as the disciple Simon), he says he had a passionate affair with co-star Shelley Winters. There is little reason to doubt this, but Blake was miffed when he was not mentioned in her tell-all autobiography. At some point (his official biography says simply "before Baretta") he was addicted to heroin for several years, and he has also abused uppers and downers. He was labeled a perfectionist and difficult to work with, which has been cited as the reason he began to work more in television than movies.

On his TV series, Baretta, he played a tough-talking, soft-hearted detective with a cockatoo named Fred and a wardrobe full of disguises. In the oddly prophetic first episode, Baretta's lover was killed. During the show's run, Blake was notorious for feuding with the directors, or simply ignoring them. After Baretta, Blake continued working on television, frequently playing Baretta-like tough guys. For the series Hell Town, he played Baretta with a priest's collar instead of a cockatoo, and after Hell Town was cancelled he vanished from Hollywood, saying he wanted to get his life back together. He did not return to the cameras for seven years. In 1995 he appeared in Money Train with Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, and in 1997 he played the mystery man in David Lynch's Lost Highway with Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette.

Blake vanished again, until 2001, when he burst into the news after his wife, former groupie and grifter Bonny Lee Bakley, was murdered. Bakley had made a living sending nude photos to men and asking for money to visit them: they often sent the cash, but she did not always follow through and visit. She had reportedly long wanted to marry a successful actor, and it was alleged that she had tried to get pregnant "accidentally" with several celebrities. Bakely had a baby in 2000, and bloodwork showed that the infant, named Rose, was Blake's. They married, and Blake was said to adore the child. Bakley, though, had also dated Christian Brando, who believed that Rose was his child until Bakley sent him a taunting photo of the child with a note announcing her marriage to Blake.

After dinner one evening, Blake returned to the restaurant to retrieve a firearm he left in the establishment. Upon returning to his car, he found Bakley shot in the head. Most people assumed that he had killed her. In conflicting accounts, some witnesses said that he seemed cold and composed after finding her body, while others described Blake as wildly emotional. He was tested for gunshot residue, which showed up in minute amounts on his clothing, no more than could be explained from holding his dying wife. Reports suggested that he had attempted to hire two Hollywood stuntmen to kill Bakley, and Blake was soon arrested for her murder. He spent one year in custody before the judge ordered bail, and without access to dye Blake's trademark shoe-polish black hair had gone completely white.

His trial was a media frenzy, of course. Blake's defense tried to show that Brando might have been the real murderer, while the prosecution's witnesses were not credible -- one of the alleged hitmen was discovered to have suffered from drug-induced delusions and hospitalization, and the other committed suicide. Blake was acquitted of Bakley's murder, but his dead wife's family sued for damages in civil court, where standards of proof are lower, and won a $30M judgment (later reduced to $15M).

Father: James Gubitosi (d. 1955 suicide)
Mother: Elizabeth (dancer, d.)
Sister: Jovanny (d.)
Brother: James Gubitosi, Jr. (estranged)
Wife: Sondra Kerry (actress, m. 25-Nov-1962, div. 1983, one son, one daughter)
Son: Noah Blake (actor, b. 1-Feb-1965)
Daughter: Delinah Blake Hurwitz (psychology professor, Cal State Northridge)
Wife: Bonny Lee Bakley (m. 12-Nov-2000, d. 4-May-2001 murder, one daughter)
Daughter: Rose Lenore Sophia Blake (b. 2-Jun-2000 with Bakley, later adopted by Delinah)
Mistress: Shelley Winters (1965, according to him)
Girlfriend: Collette Duval (actress, dated on and off for 13 years)

    Emmy 1975 for Baretta
    Golden Globe 1976 for Baretta
    Expelled from School
    Paternity Test
    Issued Concealed Carry Permit (1991)
    Murder of Bonny Lee Bakley (acquitted 16-Mar-2005)
    Inmate: Los Angeles County Jail
    Bankruptcy 2006
    Italian Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Dyslexia, Smoking, Depression, Heroin

    Hell Town Fr. Noah "Hardstep" Rivers (1985)
    Baretta Tony Baretta (detective, 1975-78)
    The Richard Boone Show Various Roles (1963-64)

    Paul Williams Still Alive (11-Sep-2011) · Himself
    Lost Highway (21-Feb-1997)
    Money Train (22-Nov-1995) · Patterson
    Judgment Day: The John List Story (23-Feb-1993)
    Of Mice and Men (29-Nov-1981)
    Second-Hand Hearts (8-May-1981)
    Coast to Coast (3-Oct-1980)
    Busting (Feb-1974) · Patrick Farrel
    Electra Glide in Blue (16-Jan-1974)
    Corky (Mar-1972) · Corky
    Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (18-Dec-1969) · Willie
    In Cold Blood (14-Dec-1967) · Perry Smith
    This Property Is Condemned (3-Aug-1966)
    The Greatest Story Ever Told (15-Feb-1965) · Simon the Zealot
    PT 109 (19-Jun-1963) · Charles "Bucky" Harris
    Town Without Pity (24-Mar-1961)
    The Purple Gang (5-Jan-1960) · Honeyboy Willard
    Battle Flame (26-Jul-1959)
    Pork Chop Hill (29-May-1959) · Velie
    Rumble on the Docks (Dec-1956)
    Three Violent People (Dec-1956)
    Screaming Eagles (27-May-1956) · Pvt. Hernandez
    Veils of Bagdad (7-Oct-1953)
    Apache War Smoke (25-Sep-1952) · Luis
    The Black Rose (1-Sep-1950)
    The Last Round-Up (5-Nov-1947) · Mike
    Rustlers of Devil's Canyon (1-Jul-1947)
    Humoresque (25-Dec-1946) · Paul Boray
    In Old Sacramento (31-May-1946)
    Dakota (25-Dec-1945)
    Wagon Wheels Westward (21-Dec-1945)
    The Horn Blows at Midnight (28-Apr-1945) · Junior
    The Big Noise (22-Sep-1944)
    Lost Angel (23-Dec-1943) · Jerry
    China Girl (9-Dec-1942) · Chandu
    Andy Hardy's Double Life (Dec-1942) · Tooky
    Mokey (Apr-1942)

Author of books:
Tales of a Rascal: What I Did for Love (2011, memoir)

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