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Robert Blake (actor)

Robert Blake (actor)

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Robert Blake is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 actor who starred in the film In Cold Blood
In Cold Blood (film)
In Cold Blood is a 1967 film based on Truman Capote's book of the same name. Richard Brooks prepared the adaptation and directed the film. Some scenes were filmed on the locations of the original events, in Garden City and Holcomb, Kansas including the Clutter residence...

and the U.S. television series Baretta
Baretta is an American detective television series which ran on ABC from 1975 to 1978. The show was a milder version of a successful 1973–74 ABC series, Toma, starring Tony Musante as chameleon-like, real-life New Jersey police officer David Toma...

. In 2005, he was tried and acquitted
In the common law tradition, an acquittal formally certifies the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as the criminal law is concerned. This is so even where the prosecution is abandoned nolle prosequi...

 for the 2001 murder of his wife, but on November 18, 2005, Blake was found liable in a California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 civil court for her wrongful death.

Early life

Blake was born Michael James Vincenzo Gubitosi in Nutley, New Jersey
Nutley, New Jersey
2010 Census Data:*TOTAL: 28,370 or 100%*White: 23,405 *African American: 628 *Asian: 2,824 *American Indian and Alaska Native: 36 *Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 4...

, to Giacomo (James) Gubitosi (1906–1956) and Elizabeth Cafone (b. 1910). His brother was James Gubitosi (1930–1995) and his sister was Giovanna Gubitosi (1932–1985).

His father was born in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, arriving in the United States in 1907, and his mother was an Italian-American born in New Jersey. They married in 1929. In 1930, James worked as a die 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
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, in 1938, where the children began working as movie
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

Extra (actor)
A background actor or extra is a performer in a film, television show, stage, musical, opera or ballet production, who appears in a nonspeaking, nonsinging or nondancing capacity, usually in the background...


Child actor

Then known as Mickey Gubitosi, Blake began his acting career
Career is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person's "course or progress through life ". It is usually considered to pertain to remunerative work ....

 when he appeared as Toto in the MGM
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of films and television programs. MGM was founded in 1924 when the entertainment entrepreneur Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer...

 movie Bridal Suite (1939
1939 in film
The year 1939 in motion pictures can be justified as being called the most outstanding one ever, when it comes to the high quality and high attendance at the large set of the best films that premiered in the year .- Events :Motion picture historians and film often rate...

) starring Annabella and Robert Young
Robert Young (actor)
Robert George Young was an American television, film, and radio actor, best known for his leading roles as Jim Anderson, the father of Father Knows Best and as physician Marcus Welby in Marcus Welby, M.D. .-Early life:Born in Chicago, Illinois, Young was the son of an Irish immigrant father...

. Gubitosi then began appearing in MGM's Our Gang
Our Gang
Our Gang, also known as The Little Rascals or Hal Roach's Rascals, was a series of American comedy short films about a group of poor neighborhood children and the adventures they had together. Created by comedy producer Hal Roach, the series is noted for showing children behaving in a relatively...

short subjects under his real name, replacing Eugene "Porky" Lee. He appeared in 40 of the shorts between 1939 and 1944, 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, Mickey, was often called upon to cry, and the young actor has been criticized for being unsubtle and unconvincing. He was also criticized for being obnoxious and whiny. In 1942, he acquired the stage name
Stage name
A stage name, also called a showbiz name or screen name, is a pseudonym used by performers and entertainers such as actors, wrestlers, comedians, and musicians.-Motivation to use a stage name:...

 Bobby Blake and his character in the series was renamed "Mickey Blake." In 1944, MGM discontinued Our Gang, releasing the final short in the series Dancing Romeo
Dancing Romeo
Dancing Romeo is a 1944 Our Gang short comedy film directed by Cyril Endfield. Produced and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, it was the 220th and final Our Gang short to be released.-Plot:...

on April 29.

To date, Gubitosi is one of the few living Our Gang actors from the original series. Other notable surviving members are Dickie Moore, Jean Darling
Jean Darling
Jean Darling is a former American child actress who was a regular in the Our Gang short subjects series from 1927 to 1929. She remains the last surviving cast member from the silent era.-Career:...

, Sidney Kibrick
Sidney Kibrick
Sidney Kibrick is an American former child actor, most notable for appearing in the Our Gang short subjects series from 1935 to 1939. From 1937 to 1939, he portrayed "The Woim", the sidekick of the neighborhood bully "Butch", played by Tommy Bond.He is the brother of the late Leonard Kibrick,...

, Jerry Tucker
Jerry Tucker
Jerry Tucker is a former American child actor, most notable for appearing as the "rich kid" in the Our Gang short subjects series semi-regularly from 1931 to 1938....

, and Jackie Lynn Taylor
Jackie Lynn Taylor
Jackie Lynn Taylor is an American former child actress born in Compton, California. She is notable for appearing in five Our Gang short subjects in 1934–1935. She often portrayed the sister or girlfriend of one of the boys, usually Wally Albright.She joined KTTV in 1951 as the hostess of the...


In 1944
1944 in film
The year 1944 in film involved some significant events, including the wholesome, award-winning Going My Way plus popular murder mysteries such as Double Indemnity, Gaslight and Laura.-Events:*July 20 - Since You Went Away is released....

, Blake began playing an Indian boy, "Little Beaver," in the Red Ryder
Red Ryder
Red Ryder was a popular long-running Western comic strip created by Stephen Slesinger and artist Fred Harman. Beginning Sunday, November 6, 1938, Red Ryder was syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association, expanding over the following decade to 750 newspapers, translations into ten languages and...

 Western series at Republic Pictures, appearing in twenty-three of the movies until 1947
1947 in film
The year 1947 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*May 22 - Great Expectations is premiered in New York.*November 24 : The United States House of Representatives of the 80th Congress voted 346 to 17 to approve citations for contempt of Congress against the "Hollywood Ten".*November 25...

. He also had roles in one of Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy were one of the most popular and critically acclaimed comedy double acts of the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema...

's later films The Big Noise
The Big Noise
The Big Noise is a 1944 comedy film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. It was produced by Sol M. Wurtzel and directed by Mal St.Clair. It has been regarded by many film critics and Laurel and Hardy historians as being among the duo's worst films....

1944 in film
The year 1944 in film involved some significant events, including the wholesome, award-winning Going My Way plus popular murder mysteries such as Double Indemnity, Gaslight and Laura.-Events:*July 20 - Since You Went Away is released....

), and the Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 movies Humoresque
Humoresque is a genre of romantic music characterized by pieces with fanciful humor in the sense of mood rather than wit. The name refers to the German term Humoreske, which was given from the 1800s onward to humorous tales....

1946 in film
The year 1946 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*November 21 - William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives premieres in New York featuring an ensemble cast including Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, and Harold Russell.*December 20 - Frank Capra's It's a...

), playing John Garfield
John Garfield
John Garfield was an American actor adept at playing brooding, rebellious, working-class character roles. He grew up in poverty in Depression-era New York City and in the early 1930s became an important member of the Group Theater. In 1937 he moved to Hollywood, eventually becoming one of Warner...

's character as a child, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (film)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a 1948 American film written and directed by John Huston, a feature film adaptation of B. Traven's 1927 novel of the same name, in which two Americans Fred C. Dobbs and Bob Curtin during the 1920s in Mexico join with an old-timer, Howard , to prospect for gold...

(1948), playing the Mexican
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 boy who sells Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon.The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema....

 a winning lottery ticket and getting a glass of water thrown in his face in the process.

According to Blake, he had an unhappy childhood with a miserable home life and was abused by his 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.

Career as an adult

In 1950, Blake joined the Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

. After returning to Southern California
Southern California
Southern California is a megaregion, or megapolitan area, in the southern area of the U.S. state of California. Large urban areas include Greater Los Angeles and Greater San Diego. The urban area stretches along the coast from Ventura through the Southland and Inland Empire to San Diego...

, he entered Jeff Corey
Jeff Corey
Jeff Corey was an American stage and screen actor and director who became a well-respected acting teacher after being blacklisted in the 1950s.-Biography:...

's acting class and began working on improving both his personal and professional lives. He eventually became a seasoned Hollywood
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Hollywood is a famous district in Los Angeles, California, United States situated west-northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Due to its fame and cultural identity as the historical center of movie studios and movie stars, the word Hollywood is often used as a metonym of American cinema...

 actor, playing notable dramatic roles in movies and on television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

. In 1956, he was billed as Robert Blake for the first time.

In 1959, he turned down the role of Little Joe Cartwright, a character ultimately portrayed by Michael Landon
Michael Landon
Michael Landon was an American actor, writer, director, and producer. He is widely known for his roles as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza , Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie , and Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven...

, in NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

's western
Western (genre)
The Western is a genre of various visual arts, such as film, television, radio, literature, painting and others. Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. Some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of...

 television series
Television program
A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

Bonanza is an American western television series that both ran on and was a production of NBC from September 12, 1959 to January 16, 1973. Lasting 14 seasons and 430 episodes, it ranks as the second longest running western series and still continues to air in syndication. It centers on the...

Blake did appear that year as Tobe Hackett in the episode "Trade Me Deadly" of the syndicated western series 26 Men
26 Men
26 Men is a syndicated American western television series about the Arizona Rangers, an elite group commissioned in 1901 by the legislature of the Arizona Territory and limited, for financial reasons, to twenty-six active members. Russell Hayden was the producer of the series and the co-composer of...

which dramatized true stories of the Arizona Rangers
Arizona Rangers
The Arizona Rangers is an Arizona law enforcement agency modeled on the Texas Rangers. The Arizona Rangers were created by the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1901, disbanded in 1909, and subsequently reformed in 1957. They were created to deal with the infestations of outlaws in the sparsely...

. Blake also appeared twice as "Alfredo" in the syndicated western The Cisco Kid
The Cisco Kid (TV series)
The Cisco Kid is a half-hour American Western television series starring Duncan Renaldo in the title role, The Cisco Kid, and Leo Carrillo as the jovial sidekick, Pancho...

and starred in "The White Hat" episode of Men of Annapolis
Men of Annapolis
Men of Annapolis is a 41-episode half-hour syndicated drama television series in anthology format which aired from 1957–1958 and was hosted by the voice of Art Gilmore. Darryl Hickman appeared four times on the program as Dusty Rhodes, a fictitious midshipman at the United States Naval Academy in...

another syndicated series. Blake appeared in various roles in the series Have Gun Will Travel and also guest starred on John Payne
John Payne (actor)
John Payne was an American film actor who is mainly remembered as a singer in 20th Century Fox musical films, and for his leading roles in Miracle on 34th Street and the NBC western television series The Restless Gun.-Background:Payne was born in Roanoke, Virginia...

's NBC western The Restless Gun
The Restless Gun
The Restless Gun is a western television series that appeared on NBC between 1957 and 1959, with John Payne in the role of Vint Bonner, a wandering cowboy in the era after the American Civil War. A skilled gunfighter, Bonner is an idealistic person who prefers peaceful resolutions of conflict...


Blake performed in numerous motion pictures as an adult, including the starring role in The Purple Gang
The Purple Gang
The Purple Gang, also known as the Sugar House Gang, were a mob with predominantly Jewish members of bootleggers and hijackers in the 1920s, operating out of Detroit, Michigan, which was a major port for running alcohol products during Prohibition due to proximity to Canada.Many openly violent...

1960 in film
The year 1960 in film involved some significant events, with Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho the top-grossing release in the U.S.-Events:* April 20 - for the first time since coming home from military service in Germany, Elvis Presley returns to Hollywood, California to film G.I...

), a gangster movie, and featured roles in Pork Chop Hill
Pork Chop Hill
Pork Chop Hill , directed by Lewis Milestone, is a Korean War war film based upon the eponymous book by military historian S. L. A. Marshall, depicting the bitterly fierce first Battle of Pork Chop Hill between the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division, and Chinese and Korean Communist forces at the...

in 1959 and Town Without Pity
Town Without Pity
Town Without Pity is a 1961 American, Austrian and West German international co-production film drama starring Kirk Douglas, directed by Gottfried Reinhardt. It was made by Mirisch Productions for United Artists....

in 1961 as well as Ensign Pulver
Ensign Pulver
Ensign Pulver is a 1964 American film and a sequel to the 1955 film Mister Roberts. The movie features Robert Walker Jr., Burl Ives, Walter Matthau, Tommy Sands, Millie Perkins, Kay Medford, Peter Marshall, Jack Nicholson, Richard Gautier, George Lindsey, James Farentino, and James Coco.- Synopsis...

1964 in film
The year 1964 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* January 29 - The film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is released....

), The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told is a 1965 American epic film produced and directed by George Stevens and distributed by United Artists. It is a retelling of the story of Jesus Christ, from the Nativity through the Resurrection. This film is notable for its large ensemble cast and for being the last...

1965 in film
The year 1965 in film involved some significant events, with The Sound of Music topping the U.S. box office.-Top grossing films : After theatrical re-issue- Awards :Academy Awards:...

) and other films. In 1967
1967 in film
The year 1967 in film involved some significant events. It is widely considered as one of the most ground-breaking years in film.-Events:* December 26 - The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour airs on British television....

, he played real-life murderer Perry Smith
Perry Smith (murderer)
Perry Edward Smith was one of two ex-convicts who murdered four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, United States on November 15, 1959, a crime made famous by Truman Capote in his 1966 non-fiction novel In Cold Blood.-Family and early life:Perry Edward Smith was born in Huntington,...

 in In Cold Blood
In Cold Blood (film)
In Cold Blood is a 1967 film based on Truman Capote's book of the same name. Richard Brooks prepared the adaptation and directed the film. Some scenes were filmed on the locations of the original events, in Garden City and Holcomb, Kansas including the Clutter residence...

; Richard Brooks
Richard Brooks
Richard Brooks was an American screenwriter, film director, novelist and occasional film producer.-Early life and career:...

 directed, adapting Truman Capote
Truman Capote
Truman Streckfus Persons , known as Truman Capote , was an American author, many of whose short stories, novels, plays, and nonfiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's and the true crime novel In Cold Blood , which he labeled a "nonfiction novel." At...

's non-fiction book for the film.

Blake played an Indian fugitive in Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here is a Technicolor movie released in 1969, based on the true story of a Paiute Indian named Willie Boy and his run-in with the law in 1909 in Banning, California, United States....

1969 in film
The year 1969 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* Last year for prize giving at the Venice Film Festival until it is revived in 1980...

), a TV movie adaptation of Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California, USA....

(1981), and a motorcycle highway patrolman in Electra Glide in Blue
Electra Glide in Blue
Electra Glide in Blue is a 1973 film starring Robert Blake as a motorcycle cop in Arizona and Billy Green Bush as his partner. The name stems from the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle issued to traffic cops....

1973 in film
The year 1973 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*The Marx Brothers' Zeppo Marx divorces his second wife, Barbara Blakely. Blakely would later marry actor/singer Frank Sinatra....

). He played a small-town stock car driver with ambitions to join the NASCAR
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is a family-owned and -operated business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events. It was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947–48. As of 2009, the CEO for the company is Brian France, grandson of the late Bill France Sr...

 circuit in Corky, which MGM produced in 1972. The film featured real NASCAR drivers, including Richard Petty
Richard Petty
Richard Lee Petty is a former NASCAR driver who raced in the Strictly Stock/Grand National Era and the NASCAR Winston Cup Series...

 and Cale Yarborough
Cale Yarborough
William Caleb "Cale" Yarborough , is a farmer, businessman and former NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver and owner. He is one of only two drivers in NASCAR history to win three consecutive championships...


Blake may be best known for his Emmy Award
Emmy Award
An Emmy Award, often referred to simply as the Emmy, is a television production award, similar in nature to the Peabody Awards but more focused on entertainment, and is considered the television equivalent to the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards .A majority of Emmys are presented in various...

-winning role of Tony Baretta in the popular television series Baretta (1975 to 1978), playing an undercover police detective who specialized in disguises. The show's trademarks included Baretta's pet cockatoo
A cockatoo is any of the 21 species belonging to the bird family Cacatuidae. Along with the Psittacidae and the Strigopidae , they make up the parrot order Psittaciformes . Placement of the cockatoos as a separate family is fairly undisputed, although many aspects of the other living lineages of...

 "Fred," his signature phrases — notably "That's the name of that tune" and "You can take that to the bank" — and a memorable theme song, "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow," written by Dave Grusin
Dave Grusin
David Grusin is an American composer, arranger and pianist. Grusin has composed many scores for feature films and television, and has won numerous awards for his soundtrack and record work, including an Academy award and 12 Grammys...

 and Morgan Ames and performed by Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Samuel George "Sammy" Davis Jr. was an American entertainer and was also known for his impersonations of actors and other celebrities....

He continued to act through the 1980s and 1990s, mostly in television, in such roles as Jimmy Hoffa
Jimmy Hoffa
James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa was an American labor union leader....

 in the miniseries Blood Feud
Blood Feud (1983 film)
Blood Feud is a 1983 television miniseries surrounding around the conflict between Jimmy Hoffa and Robert F. Kennedy in a 11-year span from 1957 until Kennedy's assassination in 1968. The 210-minute film was directed by Mike Newell and written by Robert Boris...

(1983) and as John List
John List
John Emil List was an American murderer. On November 9, 1971, he murdered his wife, mother, and three children in Westfield, New Jersey, and then disappeared. He had planned everything so meticulously that nearly a month passed before anyone noticed that anything was amiss...

 in the murder drama Judgment Day: The John List Story (1993), which earned him a third Emmy nomination. He also had character parts in the theatrical movies Money Train
Money Train
Money Train is a 1995 American comedy thriller film starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson and Jennifer Lopez as New York City transit cops...

1995 in film
-Top grossing films:-Events:* March 22 - The Dogme 95 movement is officially announced in Paris by Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.* March 28 - Actress Julia Roberts and singer Lyle Lovett announce their plans for separation....

) and Lost Highway (1997). In addition, Blake starred in the television series Hell Town, playing a priest working in a tough neighborhood.

Personal life

He and actress Sondra Kerr were married in 1961 and divorced in 1983. They had two children, actor Noah Blake (born 1965) and Delinah Blake (born 1966).

In 1999, Blake met Bonnie Lee Bakley
Bonnie Lee Bakley
Bonnie Lee Bakley was the wife of actor Robert Blake.-Early life:Bonny Lee Bakley was born in Morristown, New Jersey to arborist Edward J. Bakley and his wife, Marjorie Lois Bakley. Bakley had three other siblings: Margerry Lisa Bakley, Joe Bakley, and her half-brother Peter Carlyon from her...

, formerly of Wharton, New Jersey
Wharton, New Jersey
Wharton is a Borough in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2000 United States Census, the borough population was 6,298.What is now Wharton was originally incorporated as the borough of Port Oram by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on June 26, 1895, from portions of Randolph...

, who reportedly had a history of exploiting older men for money, especially celebrities. She was dating Christian Brando
Christian Brando
Christian Brando was the eldest child of actor Marlon Brando. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of the boyfriend of his half-sister Cheyenne. On May 16, 1990, Christian Brando had shot Dag Drollet to death at Marlon Brando's residence on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. He was...

, son of Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

, during her relationship with Blake. Bakley became pregnant and told both Brando and Blake that they were the father. Initially, Bakley named the baby "Christian Shannon Brando" and stated that Brando was the father of her child. Bakley wrote letters describing her dubious motives to Blake. Blake insisted that she take a DNA test to prove the paternity. Blake and Bakley married November 19, 2000 after DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 tests proved that he was, in fact, the biological father of her child, renamed Rose. It was his second marriage, her tenth.

Although they were married, Bakley lived in a small guest house behind her husband's house in the Studio City
Studio City, Los Angeles, California
Studio City is an affluent residential neighborhood within the City of Los Angeles, California in the San Fernando Valley. Studio City expands over four ZIP code areas: 91604 and sections of 91602, 91607 and 90210....

 area of the San Fernando Valley
San Fernando Valley
The San Fernando Valley is an urbanized valley located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area of southern California, United States, defined by the dramatic mountains of the Transverse Ranges circling it...


On May 4, 2001, Blake took Bakley to Vitello's Restaurant on Tujunga Avenue in Studio City. Afterward, Bakley was killed by a gunshot to the head while sitting in the car, which was parked around the corner from the restaurant. Blake told the police he had gone back inside the restaurant to get a gun he left at the table and was there when the shooting occurred. The gun, a .38 caliber pistol, was tested and found not to be the gun that killed Bakley, which was determined to be a 9 mm pistol. Though witnesses in the restaurant testified that Blake indeed returned to the restaurant once, claiming that his wife had been shot, no witnesses claim to have seen him return prior to that; supposedly to retrieve the gun he left at the table where he and Bakley ate.

Arrest and trial for murder

Almost one year later, on April 18, 2002, Blake was arrested 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 murder. A key event that gave the LAPD the confidence to arrest Blake came when a retired stuntman, Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton, agreed to testify against him. Hambleton alleged that Blake tried to hire him to kill Bonnie Lee Bakley. Another retired stuntman and an associate of Hambleton's, Gary McLarty, came forward with a similar story.

According to author Miles Corwin, Hambleton agreed to testify against Blake only after being told he would be subject to a grand jury
Grand jury
A grand jury is a type of jury that determines whether a criminal indictment will issue. Currently, only the United States retains grand juries, although some other common law jurisdictions formerly employed them, and most other jurisdictions employ some other type of preliminary hearing...

 subpoena and a pending misdemeanor charge. Hambleton's motives for testifying were called into question by Blake's defense team during the criminal trial.

On April 22, 2002, 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 pleaded not guilty to all charges. Caldwell was charged with a single count of murder conspiracy and also pleaded not guilty. Three days later, 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 US$1 million bail, Caldwell was released, but a judge denied bail for Blake. On March 13, 2003, after almost a year in jail, Blake was granted bail, which was set at US$1.5 million, and he was allowed to go free to await trial. Blake was placed on house arrest during this time.


Blake's criminal trial for murder began in December 2004. On March 16, 2005, Blake was found not guilty of the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley and of one of the two counts of solicitation of murder. The other count was dropped after it was revealed that the jury was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of an acquittal. Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley
Steve Cooley
Stephen Lawrence "Steve" Cooley is an American politician. As a Republican, he has been a prosecutor for 27 years and has been the Los Angeles County District Attorney since his election in 2000, in which he defeated incumbent two-term District Attorney Gil Garcetti, a Democrat...

, commenting on this ruling, called Blake a "miserable human being" and the jurors "incredibly stupid." Blake's defense team, led by attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach
M. Gerald Schwartzbach
M. Gerald Schwartzbach is an American criminal defense attorney.-Early life and career:Schwartzbach, the youngest of three children, was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. After attending Washington & Jefferson College, he graduated from George Washington University Law School in 1969.He began...

, and members of the jury responded that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. Trial analysts also agreed with the jury's verdict. On the night of his acquittal several fans celebrated at Blake's favorite haunt, Vitello's.

Civil case

Bakley's three children filed a civil suit against Blake, asserting that he was responsible for their mother's death. On November 18, 2005, the jury found Blake liable for the wrongful death
Wrongful death claim
Wrongful death is a claim in common law jurisdictions against a person who can be held liable for a death. The claim is brought in a civil action, usually by close relatives, as enumerated by statute...

 of his wife and ordered him to pay US$30 million. On February 3, 2006, Blake filed for bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

. Expressing disbelief that Blake was found liable by the jury in the civil trial, Schwartzbach (Blake's attorney in the criminal trial) vowed to appeal the jury verdict.

Civil trial verdict appeal

According to the Associated Press, Schwartzbach filed the appeal brief on February 28, 2007. The AP also reported that an LAPD Internal Affairs investigation has been opened regarding the lead detective in the murder case, Detective Ron Ito. The complaint, filed by Schwartzbach and civil trial witness Brian Allan Fiebelkorn, alleged that the detective failed to investigate leads that persons other than Robert Blake could have been responsible for the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley. Fiebelkorn testified that associates of Christian Brando
Christian Brando
Christian Brando was the eldest child of actor Marlon Brando. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of the boyfriend of his half-sister Cheyenne. On May 16, 1990, Christian Brando had shot Dag Drollet to death at Marlon Brando's residence on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. He was...

 may have been responsible for the murder of Ms. Bakley. A defense theory of who may have been involved in the conspiracy to kill Bonnie Lee Bakley was laid out in a defense motion filed during the criminal trial proceedings.

Verdict upheld

On April 26, 2008, an appeals court upheld the civil case verdict, but cut Blake's penalty assessment in half. Blake's attorneys had protested that jurors improperly discussed the Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Michael Joseph Jackson was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. Referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records...

 and O.J. Simpson verdicts during deliberations of his case, but the appeals judge ruled that such discussions were not improper.

Retirement and 2010 tax lien

Blake has maintained a very low profile since his acquittal and his filing for bankruptcy with debts of $3,000,000 for unpaid legal fees and state and federal taxes after the criminal and civil trials. Having retired from acting years before the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley, and because of his legal issues, Blake has expressed that he might return to acting someday to help himself financially. On April 9, 2010, the state of California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 filed a tax lien against Blake for $1,110,878 with the Los Angeles County recorder of Deeds for unpaid back taxes.

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