Robert Blake biography
Date of Birth: September 18, 1933
Birth name: Michael Gubitosi
Called Mickey when he was a boy, Robert Blake and his siblings performed in a song-and-dance group called "The Three Hillbillies." Their father, a former vaudevillian who Blake later acknowledged was extremely abusive, formed and organized the group. When Blake was six, he landed a lead role in MGM's Our Gang comedies and made no less than 30 of the shorts from 1939 to 1942 before landing the lead role in a motion picture entitled Mokey (1942), about a troubled, mischievous boy, co-starring Donna Reed. Previously billed as Mickey Gubitosi, his name was now changed to Bobby Blake, and he was billed by this new name in the rest of the Our Gang comedies he would film from 1942 to 1944, but his character was still called Mickey, creating some confusion for audiences.
In 1944, at the age of 11, the boy landed a recurring role in the Red Ryder western movie series as the cowboy's sidekick, a Native American boy known as Little Beaver. He made 23 of the films over the next three years, while at the same time managing to appear in a variety of roles in 11 more features. When the series ended, work slowed down for the teenager and he began landing mostly roles that required a boy who could look ethnic. He played "Paul the Refugee Lad" in The Return of Rin Tin Tin (1947); a Mexican boy in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre(1948) opposite Humphrey Bogart, "Pasquale the Bus Boy" in Black Hand (1949), "Mahmoud" in The Black Rose (1950), "Luis" in Apache War Smoke (1952), and a "Beggar Boy" in The Veils of Bagdad (1953).
As an adult, Blake worked steadily, if sometimes sporadically, but he became just another Hollywood minor player until he won the role of Perry Smith in In Cold Blood (1967). His chilling portrayal of the serial killer made Hollywood sit up and take notice. The performance earned him starring roles in films such as Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (1969), Corky (1972), and Electra Glide in Blue (1973), before landing the starring role in the television series Baretta in 1975.
The role endeared him to audiences and not only made him a household name, but earned him an Emmy award for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama" and a Golden Globe for "Best TV Actor-Drama." He became a regular guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where he spoke frankly of the abuse he endured as a child at the hands of his father. "Being locked in the closets and beat up and burned and sexual stuff -- and to come out from under it -- I mean, it's lovely. Most people like me end up on death row, or in the graveyards, or prison," he said in the late 1970s.
However, the demons of his troubled childhood continued to haunt him and his drug use, combined with mood swings, caused his demeanor to become somewhat erratic. By 1985, when Blake was appearing as a priest in his second successful TV series, Hell Town, he walked away from show business to sort out his personal demons.
After a long break, in 1993 Blake returned to the small screen to play a man who kills his entire family in the movie Judgment Day, based on a real-life incident.
Having been away from the big screen for 10 years, he made his return in Money Train (1995), co-starring alongside Wesley Snipes and Jennifer Lopez. David Lynch's Lost Highway (1997) was his last film to date, co-starring Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette.
Married in 1964 to wife Sondra, the couple had two children before divorcing in 1983. Blake remained single until he met Bonny Lee Bakley, a well-known celebrity chaser. When she became pregnant in 1999, she initially believed the child was Christian Brando's, but blood tests confirmed that Blake was the father. Although he barely knew Bakley, Blake offered to marry her and the ceremony took place on November 15, 2000.
On May 4, 2001, Blake and his wife went out to dinner. When they returned to their car, he went back into the restaurant to get a gun he'd left in there, leaving his wife alone in the car. He came out to find her murdered by a gunshot through the head. Although police initially claimed the actor was not a suspect, he was taken into custody over a year later on April 18, 2002 and charged with her murder.