Blake, who won acclaim for his role as a psychopathic killer in the 1967 film adaptation of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” is among family members at his home in Los Angeles, according to a statement released to CBS and other news outlets. Died surrounded by. agencies by his niece, Noreen Austin.
Blake was charged with the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Buckley, in 2002, but was later acquitted. A lawsuit filed by her children later resulted in a civil court ruling that Blake was responsible for her death.
Born Michael James Gubitosi in Nutley, New Jersey, Blake got his start in show business as a youth, when he and his two siblings joined his parents’ song-and-dance vaudeville act. , which were known as “The Three Little Hillbillies”. The family moved to California.
He began appearing in 1939 as Mickey in the “Our Gang” short film series, also known as “The Little Rascals”.
Blake was acquitted in 2005 of the murder of Bakley, who had a record of swindling men in search of romance, after less than a year of marriage. But a few months after the verdict in the criminal case, Bakli’s children successfully sued the actor in civil court.
With its intense media coverage, the case was compared to that of former football star OJ Simpson, who was found not guilty in 1994 of the stabbing murders of his ex-wife and her friend, but in a civil trial during was found liable. 1990s.
Blake was only 8 when he began appearing in “Our Gang” shorts as Mickey in the years following, going on to play Little Beaver, a Native American boy, in the “Red Ryder” Western series.
After transitioning to child roles and serving in the military, Blake made steady appearances in television and appeared in films such as “Pork Chop Hill,” “The Purple Gang” and “Town Without Pete.”
He was short in stature, but had a sharp-tongued, tough-spoken personality on and off screen. Blake’s breakthrough came with a chilling portrayal of Perry Smith, one of two drifters who kill a family of four in Richard Brooks’ film version of Capote’s fact-based novel, “In Cold Blood.”
‘Don’t commit crimes…’
Blake played lead roles in the movies “Elektra Glides in Blue” and “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here,” but his greatest fame came playing unorthodox big-city detective Tony Baretta from 1975 to 1978 on ABC.
His “Beretta” character was rough around the edges and often donned disguises to solve crimes. He kept a pet cockatoo named Fred and was known for such catchy phrases as: “And you can take it to the bank,” and “That’s the name of that tune.” The show’s theme song focuses on “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”.
The role earned Blake an Emmy in 1975 and another nomination in 1977.
He received Emmy nominations for playing a real-life mass murderer in the 1993 television film “Judgment Day: The John List Story” and Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa in 1983’s “Blood Feud.”
Blake returned to television in 1986, creating the series “Hell Town” and starring as a priest who helps street children. He left after several episodes, later telling the Los Angeles Times that he was behaving erratically and was having suicidal thoughts.
His last acting job was a role listed as “Mystery Man” in David Lynch’s 1997 film “Lost Highway,” about a man who kills his wife.
Blake’s acting work was overshadowed by Buckley’s murder four years later, which remains unsolved. Authorities said Bakley was married nine times when she met Blake in 1999 and supported herself by maintaining multiple identities and using magazine ads to persuade men to send her money.
She was also reportedly obsessed with marrying a celebrity, and in 2000 she gave birth to a girl. A paternity test revealed that the father was Blake, not Christian Brando, the son of actor Marlon Brando, who Bakley was simultaneously dating.
Blake and Buckley had been married for less than a year when they went to dinner at an Italian restaurant in the Studio City section of Los Angeles on May 4, 2001. The pistol he said he accidentally went into the restaurant. Blake told police that when he returned to the car, he found his wife covered in gunshot wounds.
Investigators determined that Blake’s gun did not kill Bakley and the original murder weapon was found in a nearby dumpster.
murder, no witnesses
Blake was arrested and charged with murder about a year later and spent several months in jail before being granted bail. When he went to trial in 2005, prosecutors had no witnesses or concrete evidence to link him to the murder, and built their case on the premise that Blake wanted Bakley dead because he felt she had forced him to marry her by getting her pregnant. Was tricked for
The prosecution presented two former stuntmen who testified that Blake had tried to hire them to kill Buckley, but that Blake, who did not testify at the trial, turned him down when the stuntman turned him down. committed the crime himself.
After four months of testimony and nearly two weeks of deliberations, the jurors acquitted Blake.
Bakley’s children won a wrongful death lawsuit against Blake in November 2005 and were awarded $30 million in damages, causing him to file for bankruptcy protection three months later. Blake’s appeal to overturn the civil verdict was lost, but the damages were reduced to $15 million.
Blake always maintained his innocence and gave a few different interviews over the years that focused anger on the police officers involved in his case and how he was let off.
He told CNN in 2012, “I didn’t know her very well.”
“Bonnie had people she burned… I think she was a trap artist, yeah. I think she came to Hollywood to make her way in show business.”
Blake, who had four children, was married to actress Sondra Kerr for 22 years before separating in 1983. In 2017, he married old friend Pamela Hudak but the marriage ended in 2019.