‘Lost Highway’ actor Robert Blake dead at 89

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Actor Robert Blake, known for “Baretta,” “In Cold Blood” and “Lost Highway,” as well as being acquitted in the killing of his wife, has died. He was 89.

Blake died Thursday from heart disease at his Los Angeles home, according to a statement from his family.

Blake, born Michael Gubitosi in Nutley, N.J. in 1933, was a child actor, playing one of the Little Rascals in dozens of the popular “Our Gang” short films. He also appeared in the classic “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

As an adult, Blake played real-life murderer Perry Smith in an adaptation of “In Cold Blood,” a role that apparently inspired Anthony Hopkins ahead of the filming of “The Silence of the Lambs.”

He won a lead actor Emmy in 1975 for the title role in cop drama “Baretta,” which popularized the line, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

In his final feature film role, he gave a memorable performance as a mysterious stranger in David Lynch’s mind-bending “Lost Highway.”

However, Blake’s late career was defined by a murder trial for the shooting death of his wife Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, outside a San Fernando Valley restaurant in May 2001.

Blake told investigators Bakley was shot in their car after he went inside to get a handgun he had left inside the restaurant. He was charged with murder, solicitation of murder, conspiracy and special circumstances of lying in wait in 2002.

In the bizarre trial that followed, prosecutors accused Blake of trying to hire hitmen to kill Bakley so he could have sole custody of the couple’s daughter.

Blake was ultimately acquitted during his criminal trial but was sent into bankruptcy after a civil jury found him liable for Bakley’s death and ordered him to pay her family $30 million. Bakley’s killing officially remains unsolved.

Blake is survived by actor Noah Blake and Delinah Blake, his children with his former wife, actress Sondra Kerr, and by Rose, the daughter he had with Bakley.

With New Wire Services