‘Baretta,’ the ‘In Cold Blood’ star who beat Murder Rap was 89 – Deadline

Robert Blakethe controversial actor who won a Lead Actor Emmy for Barrette and acted in films including In cold blood And lost highway before a career-ending murder trial, died today of heart disease in Los Angeles. He was 89 years old. His niece, Noreen Austin, confirmed the news.

Blake’s long career has spanned from a childhood stint in ‘Our Gang’ at age 5 to major movies and television before being acquitted of the 2001 murder-in-death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

During more than 60 years of working in Hollywood, Blake appeared in classic films such as Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) alongside Humphrey Bogart; In cold blood (1967) with John Forsythe; as well as a range of studio westerns using the stage name “Bobby Blake” in the 1940s. His last feature film role was in lost highway (1997), directed by David Lynch.

On television, Blake was best known for his role as New York City undercover detective Tony Baretta in barrette, which aired for four seasons on ABC from 1975 to 1978. He was an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1975 and was nominated for the role again in 1977. He also won two other Emmy Awards during his career, for the main actor of the mini-series. blood feud (1983) and Judgment Day: The John List Story (1993).

Barrette was created by prolific television writer-creator Stephen J. Cannell and featured the memorable theme song “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow”, sung by Sammy Davis Jr. It was a spin-off of another crime drama from ABC, Tom, which debuted in 1973. But series star Tony Mustane grew weary of the weekly production, so ABC Brass decided to recast Blake in the role and rename the series. Tomá with Robert Blake. But a few format adjustments later, Barrette was born.

The series debuted as a replacement show in January 1975 and ended its first season in the Top 25 prime time shows. It jumped into the Top 10 in season 2 – fueled by the title character’s catchphrases including “And that’s the name of that song” and “You can take it to the bank” – but would be canceled in 1978 after over 80 episodes.

Several years later, Blake was chosen to lead the NBC drama city ​​of hell. He played Father Noah Rivers, aka Hardstep, who was pretty much Baretta in priestly attire, trying to bring hope to East LA Parish of St. Dominic. The series only lasted a handful of episodes in 1985.

On TV, fans also watched Blake on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carsonwhere he was a recurring guest who appeared in funny skits with longtime friend Johnny Carson and other featured celebrities.

He is also remembered as a pitchman in commercials for STP, Geico and others.

But there was also a darker side to Blake’s story.

Bakley, Blake’s second wife, was found shot dead outside Vitello’s restaurant in the San Fernando Valley in 2001, after the couple dined there. Blake told police he returned to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he had left on the floor of their booth.

Blake was charged with the 2002 murder of Bakley, as well as solicitation of murder, conspiracy and special waiting circumstances. But a jury found him not guilty of the crimes in 2005 after a widely watched three-month trial saw Blake cry on his lawyer’s shoulder after the jury acquitted him. The seven men and five women found him not guilty of soliciting a former stuntman he had met on the Barrette ready to kill his wife.

And although Bakley’s children won a wrongful death lawsuit against Blake soon after, his murder officially remains unsolved.

During the trial, details of their unhappy marriage became sensational news.

It was revealed that Bakley had at least a dozen aliases and 10 former husbands. The defense argued she trapped Blake in a loveless marriage by becoming pregnant with his child – after initially saying the father was Christian Brando, son of Oscar winner Marlon Brando. Thus, the motive of Blake, who called his wife a “pig”, was established. But the jury didn’t believe the stuntman’s testimony, thanks to his history of drug addiction.

The judge ordered that Blake be given his passport and $1.5 million bail.

In his later years, Blake wrote his memoirs, The life of a rascal, and lived quietly in the Los Angeles area.

A private memorial service will be held to honor his life. In lieu of flowers, her family is requesting that donations be made to city ​​of hope.

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.

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