Jewish World Review March 18, 2005/ 7 Adar II, 5765

Greg Crosby

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Bully for Blake | Robert Blake was found not guilty of murder Wednesday in the shooting death of his wife four years ago. So what do you think? Did he really do it or was he really innocent? Did the jury let him off just because he is a celebrity or did the jury find him not guilty because the prosecution didn't have the goods? Who knows? Who cares? Did the prosecution fail to meet their burden of proof? No question about it.

The jury of seven men and five women delivered the verdicts on its ninth day of deliberations, following a trial that lasted four-months. Eight days of deliberation — that's a long time for a jury to be out. Remember, the O.J. jury deliberated for a whopping one hour! But then they knew they were going to acquit Simpson before the trial even began. I have a hunch that the Blake jury had no such preconceptions and really put some thought into the case.

The jury also acquitted Blake of one charge of trying to get someone to kill his wife, but deadlocked on a second solicitation charge. The jury voted 11-1 in favor of acquittal and the judge dismissed the count. Good. The prosecution's stuntmen/witnesses were pathetic.

No matter what you may think of Robert Blake, the media has been rotten toward him from the very beginning. They called the 71 year old a "has-been", a "B-actor," a "second-rate wannabe who never made it," and just about any other derogatory term that they could come up with. The press seems to love to tear down. Maybe that's because that's all they can do — like so many other jealous and frustrated people in this world who have no ability to build, they simply tear down.

I don't know if Robert Blake had his wife clipped or not, but he is no second-rate actor. He's a fine actor with an impressive resume. He was nominated for an Oscar for the 1967 movie "In Cold Blood," and has appeared in more than 30 feature films. He began as a child actor in the "Our Gang" shorts in the late 30's and into the 40's and co-starred as Little Beaver in Republic's "Red Ryder" westerns. He was in lots of other feature films in the 40's and early 50's, including a favorite of mine — John Huston's "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Blake played that little Mexican boy who sells Humphrey Bogart a lottery ticket.

Following "In Cold Blood" he starred in "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here" and a string of other features throughout the 60's and 70's. He made his mark on television in several series, most notably as the star of the popular "Baretta" cop series, for which he won an Emmy Award. He did a fantastic job playing Teamster boss, Jimmy Hoffa in a TV movie. He also starred in and produced a TV movie of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" in 1981. For me, his portrayal of George in that show was his greatest role after "In Cold Blood."

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But did he whack his wife? I don't know, but I'm glad the thing is over. Not only that, but I like the verdict, and not necessarily because I think the guy is innocent. He deserves to be found not guilty because the prosecution couldn't prove their case, period. That's the way it works in this country.

But I'm also glad Blake got off because I like the idea that the catty, arrogant news media got it all wrong this time. I really love seeing the slime merchants getting it in the neck for a change. The geniuses with the cassette recorders and the smarmy talking heads who took such glee in playing up the "has-been actor" thing have come out the losers. Big time.

The ironic thing about this whole incident is that Robert Blake will probably get more offers for work now then he would have gotten otherwise. Celebrity is a crazy thing, it comes quickly and it goes just as fast. Now Blake is "hot" again and he will undoubtedly do the talk show circuit — maybe a follow-up with Barbra Walters. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he turns up acting again, too. And I've got the once in a lifetime role for him.

Unfortunately, the perfect part for him would be the part he would never play — even though he would be great in it. The part that no one else but him could do as convincingly. Too bad for the networks, because it would be the docudrama to end all docudramas — the miniseries that would sweep the ratings in a phenomenal way. You know what I'm getting at Robert Blake plays himself in "The Robert Blake Trial." I'm kidding, of course, but you know, the very idea of it is so tasteless that I'm sure it is already being pitched in offices and boardrooms all over Hollywood.

No, Robert Blake is not a second-rate actor. In a town where hundreds of thousands of talented performers never even get to the point where they can make a living in this business, Blake's is a bona fide success story. He may have done a lot of stupid things, he may be an s.o.b. to work for, he may have broken some laws, he may even have killed his wife, but the man has proven over a lifetime that he can do his job and do it well. He is an honest-to-goodness motion picture and television star, and nobody including the news media can take that away from him. And that's the name of that tune.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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