“It doesn’t make sense. I mean what happened. It had nothing to do with the Clutters. They never hurt me. They just happened to be there. I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman…I thought so right up to the time I cut his throat.”
–Actor Robert Blake as Perry Smith, In Cold Blood
Was murderer Perry Smith really a sensitive soul haunted by memories of a broken childhood? Perry came from a violent childhood. His mother drank, his father flew into explosive rages; Perry was beaten in orphanages.
In 1967, the year Robert Blake appeared in the movie from the book by Truman Capote, his press said he was born Michael Gubitosi in Nutley, New Jersey, to an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who showed him little affection.
Sexual and physical abuse, not to mention the psychological abuse that went along with that, was regularly inflicted on his young, impressionable mind and body by his parents. Like Perry Smith, beatings were a regular occurrence, the report said.
In the 1975 pilot episode of Baretta, Blake’s character must cope with the killing of his new wife outside an Italian restaurant.
In 2005, Robert Blake was tried and acquitted for the 2001 murder of his new wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, murdered outside an Italian restaurant, Vitello’s in Studio City.
Ten years after the release of In Cold Blood, 24 years before Bonnie Lee Bakley was murdered, surrounded by borrowed props that were a boy’s wishes for toys to find under the tree — a Jeep Honcho, a motorcycle with a Jose Eber cowboy hat on the handlebars and a saddled horse nearby, none with license plates — Robert Blake, wearing a t-shirt, jeans and Frye boots, jumped up on the roof of the truck, folded his hands together and crossed his legs, looking out over a ranch he implied was his also.
With no expression on his face, he told me as I took his picture that day that he was originally from Venice Beach, California, where as a cute and happy child living in a warm and family beach cottage, he danced on street corners for change. According to IMDB, at the time of his life Blake was referring to in this comment, he was actually a movie star playing the role of the happy, dancing boy. His acting career began when he was five years old, in MGM’s Our Gang, playing in 40 of the episodes between 1939 and 1944, “…becoming the series’ final lead character with his “cute good looks and his lovable personality” – IMDB
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This is great! Airrion C
Very spooky dude even before all that…child star syndrome. Chris N.
Always interesting. J. Tabler
Should the eyes ever fail…you’ll still have one hell of a pen! Sean A.
Great, but you might want to include a line about his Little Rascals career. Bob G.
Thanks…I thought of that. But it sort of falls into the supposed “group tragedy” of that group I wanted to isolate two events for which he invented a individual “selves” for each event. And grim events. MS.
You could easily do a book of these. Jules S.
Thanks. Actually a doc is being “developed” as we say in Hollywood! MS
This is cool. I loved Baretta as a kid. Thought the parrot was a nice touch. Nelson Q.
I think he ate the parrot. MS
Hope that was a joke. But I wouldn’t be surprised. Nelson Q.
Whoever said this (opening quote) should run a studio. Alan M.
And under his orange knit cap, in his pink v-neck cashmere sweater over turquoise slacks, taking off gold-rimmed shades, I could see that he certainly was.
He invited me into the rented pastel stucco house in Palm Springs, saying he had to put the English bulldog under his arm into the dog’s own temperature-controlled room. “Bulldogs have sinus problems,” Truman said. “The air conditioning in here is not good for him.” “Bulldog Truman…” he said. “I was given the nickname Bulldog at about age seven.”
Then we spent half the day arranging the patio furniture and flower pots because he wanted me to take his picture like the photograph of him for his first book which made the The New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for nine weeks.
“The famous photograph: Harold Halma’s picture on the dust jacket of Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948) caused as much comment and controversy as the prose inside. “
–Gerald Clarke, Capote: A Biography
Truman said he had directed the Harold Halma photograph — which showed a reclining, big-eyed Capote gazing fiercely into the camera — and he wanted to recreate that pose.
In 1952, Henri Cartier-Bresson published his book Images à la Sauvette (The Decisive Moment). In the preface, Cartier-Bresson wrote: “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment,” adding: “Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact.”
Cartier-Bresson had also taken a famous photograph of Truman, which, to me, captured the fact of Capote much more so than the Harold Halma photograph Truman staged.
That is the decisive moment I wanted to record. This is that picture:
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Bresson said that the essence of his art was “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event, as well as the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” Too often, the “significance” feels platitudinous, even as its expression dazzles. Robert Frank, whose book “The Americans” (1958) treated subjects akin to many in the older photographer’s work, put it harshly but justly: “He traveled all over the goddamned world, and you never felt that he was moved by something that was happening other than the beauty of it, or just the composition.” –from Kenneth R. Anderson
You are still my hero, M – and one of the best designers and creative people in the world – keep up the great work – your site is very rich and very cool. dc
That’s a great shot. He seems vulnerable, sad and almost having a religious moment to me. Maybe the hand on his chest. He looks to be coming to terms with his immortality. I get all that in an instant. Nelson Q.