Robert Blake, who has had both a spinning top out of control and in the driver’s seat career as an actor in Hollywood, celebrates his 80th birthday today.
With a career that is at once tumultuous, cloaked and uncloaked in mystery and tragedy, a craft that is chameleonic and riveting, hilarious and warm, tough and unrelenting, Robert Blake still remains not a footnote in Hollywood’s rich history, but more like a boot stomp. As a child star in films, he charmed audiences, albeit sometimes to the point of ad nauseum, as part of the latter day incarnation of Hal Roach’s popular youth gone wild comedy shorts The Little Rascals as Mickey (Blake’s real name is Mickey Gubitosi). A few decades later, he became a glistening crystallization of a criminal in Truman Capote’s bloodstains-on-violets true story In Cold Blood, and then the role that defined his career, Baretta, a wisecracking LA cop with a style and substance that was on equal footing and gleaned almost from a New York attitude which lay in concert with the laid back grimy idyllic Los Angeles circa 1970s. The role and the series became a big hit and won Blake an Emmy award. He then followed this up with stints as a very Baretta-like Priest on television once again in Hell Town, which was replete with all the clichÃ©s, yet the Blake tough unapologetic heart of gold character he became associated with. Movies like Lost Highway and the mid-’80s TV miniseries Blood Feud, in which Blake gave a galvanizing performance as the Teamster kingpin Jimmy Hoffa, kept the actor enough in the public eye to be a constant.
...continue reading »