Published January 13, 2015
Actor Robert Blake's biography and filmography:
Robert Blake is known not just for his popular 1980s series Baretta, but also for his role in In Cold Blood (1967) and as Jimmy Hoffa in the syndicated Blood Feud miniseries.
Blake began his career in the Our Gang comedy shorts, billed as Mickey Gubistosi. He was re-christened as Bobby Blake at MGM, where he appeared as a juvenile in small roles in such films as I Love You Again (1940), Andy Hardy's Double Life (1942) and Salute to the Marines (1943).
While Blake never reached child stardom, he earned notice portraying Little Beaver in a string of Republic low-budget Westerns while in his early teens. He continued making appearances into the 1950s, often in small roles. And in 1950, he co-produced and starred in the independently made Blackout. Later, he worked as a stuntman and actor in two Columbia feature films. By the early 1960s, he was almost always in supporting parts.
It was not until In Cold Blood that Blake was able to demonstrate his acting mettle. Cast as murderer Perry Smith, the film and Blake's performance earned rave reviews. He then played the title role in Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969) before slipping into less recognized roles.
Blake worked sporadically in TV during the 1950s and '60s, but did not get his big break until 1975. ABC had cast Tony Musante as Toma, an unconventional big city cop. When Musante bowed out of the series, ABC sought a replacement. With Blake, the network decided not to re-cast Musante, but instead revamp the series. The result was Baretta a popular, gritty show in which Blake's character lived in a seedy hotel and used au courant street jargon.
Blake followed Baretta with a series of TV-movies as a detective named Joe Dancer, but NBC declined to turn the movies into a regular series. Yet, Blake was proving his abilities as a dramatic actor, executive producing and starring as George in the NBC remake of Of Mice and Men (1981), and as Jimmy Hoffa in the 1983 syndicated miniseries Blood Ties. This lead to another series, the short-lived Hell Town (1985), in which Blake was a crusading neighborhood priest. With the demise of Hell Town, Blake virtually disappeared from Hollywood.
Blake re-emerged in 1993 as the star of the CBS TV-movie, Judgment Day: The John List Story, based on the true story of an accountant who murdered his family and got away with it for almost two decades.
In 1995, he returned to the big screen in Money Train and in David Lynch's Lost Highway in 1997.
Performed in numerous Our Gang shorts
1940: Feature film debut, I Love You Again (MGM)
1942: Played title role in Mokey
1944-1947: Played Little Beaver in Tuscon Raiders and subsequent Republic series of films
1949: TV debut, episode of Fireside Theatre
1950: Producer and first billing as Robert Blake in Eros
1961: Played Jim in Town Without Pity
1963-1964: Appeared as a regular on The Richard Boone Show
1966: Breakthrough screen role in Perry Smith In Cold Blood
1975-1978: Achieved TV stardom as Baretta
1981: Served as creator, executive producer and star of series of Joe Dancer TV-movies
1981: Played George Milton in NBC remake of Of Mice and Men
1983: Portrayed Jimmy Hoffa in Blood Feud miniseries
1985: Appeared as Father Rivers in the short-lived series Hell Town
1993: Made TV comeback, Judgment Day: The John List Story
1995: Film comeback, Money Train
Received Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Baretta (1974/75).
Received Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series (Drama) for Baretta (1975).
Received People's Choice Award for Favorite Performer in a New TV Program (1976).