Robert Blake was born on September 18th, 1933 in Nutley as Michael James Gubitosi. Although he arguably is more well known for being acquitted of killing his wife, he had a pretty impressive body of work as an actor, starting with his childhood role in the Little Rascals movie series. As an adult, he became a star by playing a killer in the film adaptation of Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood, a film nominated for four Oscars (Blake was not). His signature role was on television, though. The series Baretta made him a household name. In the show, Blake played an undercover New York police detective named Tony Baretta. The show ran for three seasons and helped cement Blake’s tough guy persona. He had another series in the 80s, Hell Town, where he played a tough priest. He portrayed New Jersey killer John List in a TV movie, as well.

He dropped off the radar of popular culture after that until his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley (also from New Jersey) was murdered in May of 2001. Blake was her tenth husband. She was shot in the head while sitting in a car near a restaurant while Blake was inside retrieving a gun he had left there earlier. While that gun was determined not to be the murder weapon, Blake was arrested and charged with her murder. He was acquitted in the criminal trial. Bakley’s children later sued him in civil court for wrongful death, and he was found liable for her death and ordered to pay $30 million; that amount was later cut in half on appeal. According to IMDB, his last acting role was in 1997.

The theme song from Baretta remains one of the best TV themes ever.

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