Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Actor Robert Blake, Once Tried For Murder, Dies At 89

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Actor Robert Blake, whose long career was overshadowed by accusations that he murdered his wife, has died at the age of 89.

He was known as the titular hero of 1970s TV detective series Baretta and starred in the 1997 film Lost Highway, but his career struggled following his wife’s 2001 fatal shooting.

He was charged with her murder and acquitted, but later found liable for her death in civil court.

Blake died “peacefully with family and friends”, his family said.

A statement released by his niece, Noreen Austin, on Thursday said he had died from heart disease.

As a child, the New Jersey native got his start by appearing in the Our Gang comedy series after his family moved to California.

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With a career beginning in the late 1930s, he acted in classic film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and as the murderer Perry Smith in a 1967 adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood.

He also had a role on the NBC series Hell Town and was nominated for an Emmy for CBS made-for-TV movie Judgement Day: The John List Story.

Once considered among the greatest actors of his generation, his career never recovered after his arrest.

Mr Blake’s wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was alone in the actor’s car in the Studio City neighbourhood of Los Angeles when she was shot.

The actor told police he had left her alone to return to the Italian restaurant where they had just dined to retrieve a gun he had left behind, and found her dead.

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Four years after her death, including a year of Mr Blake awaiting trial in jail, a jury in LA found him not guilty of her murder.

Many comparisons were made at the time to the trial of celebrity OJ Simpson, who had been acquitted for murdering his ex-wife in Los Angeles 10 years earlier.

He was later ordered by a judge in a civil case to pay $30m (£25m) to the children of his ex-wife – leading him to declare bankruptcy.

He unsuccessfully appealed, but managed to get the penalty sum halved to $15m.

Mr Blake always maintained his innocence.

He had four children during his life and was married to actress Sondra Kerr for 22 years before their 1983 divorce.

In 2017 he married longtime friend Pamela Hudak, but they divorced two years later.

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Photo Credit: Getty

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