Robert Blake Dies: ‘Baretta’ Actor Acquitted of Murdering His Wife Was 89

BARETTA, Robert Blake, & Fred, in the episode, (Count The Days I'm Gone), 4/21/76.
Courtesy Everett Collection

Emmy-winning actor Robert Blake died Thursday (March 9) at age 89, surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles. His niece Noreen Austin said that he had been battling heart disease. Blake had a career lasting 60 years but will forever be remembered for the dramatic murder trial and his acquittal over the shooting death of his second wife Bonny Lee Bakley in 2001.

Blake’s best known role was as star of the ABC show Baretta in which he played undercover New York City detective Tony Baretta. It aired for four seasons in the mid 1970s. His quirky character was fond of disguises and carrying a pet cockatoo on his shoulder. The show had often quoted catchphrases, including “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” and “You can take that to the bank.”

Following Blake’s death Alec Baldwin posted a tribute on Instagram, urging people to remember him as “an incredibly gifted actor” and not for his “dramatic legal entanglements.”


As a child actor, known by his real name Mickey Gubitosi, Blake appeared in numerous movies from age 5, including Bridal Suite and the Our Gang comedy shorts from Laurel and Hardy producer Hal Roach. He then changed his name to Bobby (and eventually, Robert) Blake and went on to appear in films such as Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) with Humphrey BogartIn Cold Blood (1967) with John Forsythe, and Lost Highway (1997) with Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette.

From left: Robert Blake, Angie Dickinson officiating at the Emmy Awards, 1977

From left: Robert Blake, Angie Dickinson officiating at the Emmy Awards, 1977 (Courtesy Everett Collection)

On TV, he also appeared in The Richard Boone Show, Have Gun – Will Traveland Hell Town. In 1977 he co-hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards with Angie Dickinson, and in 1982 he hosted an episode of Saturday Night LiveHe was also a regular guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and a pitchman for Geico, STP, and others.

His final TV role in 1993 was in Judgment Day: The John List Story, a fictionalized version of a true life crime in which a man murdered members of his family before assuming a new identity and eluding capture.

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