Robert Blake, actor who was once tried over wife’s murder, dies aged 89
The Baretta actor was cleared of his wife's murder — but a civil court ordered him to pay her family £25 million.
Robert Blake has died at the age of 89, his family have confirmed.
A statement released on behalf of his niece Noreen Austin said Blake died from heart disease on Thursday 9th March, surrounded by family at home in Los Angeles.
As a youngster, Blake starred in Our Gang comedies and appeared in classic movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
As an adult, he went on to appear alongside John Forsythe in In Cold Blood, in which he played a psychopathic killer.
But his breakthrough came in the 1970s television series Baretta, in which he played undercover police officer Tony Baretta.
More like this
The series lasted for four seasons, from 1975 to 1978, and resulted in his first Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a drama series in 1975.
Blake garnered more Emmy nominations for his role in the 1993 movie Judgement Day: The John List Story and in 1983's Blood Feud.
His last appearance on a TV series came with 1985’s Hell Town, which lasted one season.
Blake was considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, but his career was derailed after he was accused of fatally shooting his wife Bonny Lee Bakley to gain custody of their daughter.
The prosecution during the trial claimed he had shot his wife outside a Los Angeles restaurant to gain custody of their daughter, whose birth certificate names Marlon Brando's son Christian as her father.
A paterntiy test later proved the baby was Blake’s.
Blake was acquitted in the criminal case but was later found responsible for her murder in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bakley’s estate.
Blake was ordered to pay $30 million (£25m) to his ex-wife's children, which then led him to file for bankruptcy.
He unsuccessfully appealed, but managed to get the penalty sum reduced to $15m. He always maintained his innocence.
Blake had four children and was married to actress Sondra Kerr for 22 years before they divorced in 1983.
In 2017, Blake married friend Pamela Hudak, but they divorced in 2019.
In a 2006 interview with the AP a year after his acquittal, Blake expressed his hopes to restart his career.
"I'd like to give my best performance," he said. "I'd like to leave a legacy for Rosie about who I am. I'm not ready for a dog and fishing pole yet. I'd like to go to bed each night desperate to wake up each morning and create some magic."