Robert Blake works his way up through the Hollywood ranks: Part 2

Blake says he used his own abusive family background to portray Perry Smith in the 1967 film "In Cold Blood" - his "big break" as an adult actor.
8:40 | 01/12/19

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:

{{nextVideo.title}}

{{nextVideo.description}}

Skip to this video now

Now Playing:

{{currentVideo.title}}

Comments
Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Robert Blake works his way up through the Hollywood ranks: Part 2
When we asked Robert Blake for an interview, he said no, but he invited us over to his home and said that we could interview his friend. And this is what happened. The way that Robert Blake came into this world is very unusual. He came into the world despite the odds against him. His parents wanted to abort him. They didn't want him to be born because he was the result of an affair that the mother was having with his uncle. Am I getting this right? He's going to tell you. Reporter: He's there. I know he's going to tell you. This is getting too Difficult. Okay. Just keep everything rolling. Okay. I'm just going to jump in here. I didn't know that you were going to start getting this heavy. This is the bottom line truth. Let's fix your earplug. The wire's sticking out. I thought that was a part of my brain. Because there's about three quarters of my brain that I would be happy to get rid of. Okay, are we good? Okay, Nutley, New Jersey. My grandmother and grandfather had a bunch of kids. Tony was one of the brothers and Jimmy was one of the brothers. And my mother married Jimmy, although she was in love with Tony. And started sneaking over to see Tony and she eventually got pregnant by him and he left. She hated what was in her stomach because it belonged to Tony and Tony had deserted her. And Jimmy hated what was in here because he knew it was Tony's. And knew both of them hated me. So you have this incredibly dysfunctional family. And what do they do? They go to Hollywood to try and make it in the movies. Hollywood, California, became the movie capital of the world. Huge movie studios sprang up and began to turn out millions of feet of entertainment a year. I was 4 1/2 years old, and my lunatic father packed up the family with all possessions and all that junk and we drove for 8 days and 8 nights across the country. And they start working as extras in the studios. Most notably, at mgm. And that's how Blake got discovered. He is really cute. He is really adorable and he's good at what he does because he does lots of little things, and you just sense that he is doing exactly what they want him to do. Blake may have been unwanted in his own family, but the camera loved him and he loved the camera. So very quickly, Blake starts getting speaking parts. But first, we're going to make some dynamite! If you talked, everybody on the set paid attention to you, which I interpreted as love. At the studio, he was supporting his entire family at home. He says his father was beating him badly. I was his punching bag. I wish I could talk nicely about him. It would be like me trying to talk nicely about the cops that put me in that cement box for a year. To this day I hate them. I'm still here, you bastards. I'm still here. I didn't die in that box. You got it? I'm still here. I'm 85 years old, I'm beat up all to hell and gone, but I'm still here and you're still pounding a beat. Smoke that. So anyway -- they were going to make me a star. Hello, everybody! Mgm saw him as a new star. And proof of that is they change his name from Mickey Gubitosi to Bobby Blake. We honestly believe that Bobby Blake is as great a boy actor as Jackie Coogan in "The kid." They cast him in his first feature film in the title role as monkey. Good night, son. Now I got my own mother. When Donna reed hugged me, that was the first time that I felt loved. In monkey, he showed a range of emotions that impressed the studio. Young Bobby is on the brink of stardom, and then his father completely blows it by picking a fight with the head of the studio. And louie B. Mayer had him physically thrown off the lot, and that's the end of the story. So Blake leaves mgm and ends up going to make kind of low budget westerns. He gets loaned out though to other studios where he does get to meet Hollywood legends. He worked with Humphrey Bogart in "The treasure of the Sierra madre." Beat it. I ain't buying no lottery tickets. Beat it. 1,000 pesos is a good price. Get away from me, you little beggar. And his mentor was John Garfield. When I played John Garfield as a boy in a picture called "Humoresque," I had this scene where I had to start crying. Well, I was dry as the mojave desert. There was nothing. I just couldn't get going. But Garfield came around and he started talking about himself, and while he's talking, he starts crying, and I start crying. And then he said the best line that I ever heard in my life about acting or art or music or anything. He said, "Life is a rehearsal. Your performance is real." He played cowboys. He play neurotic thugs in B movies like "The purple gang." Get out of here, you hear me? Just leave me alone! In 1960, Robert and I played drug addicts in a play called "The connection." And Robert played a guy called Ernie who was angry about his life and what was going on. His monologue was so real you felt he was going to crack any moment. He married actress Sandra Kerr and they had two children, Noah and delinah. So his big break is in 1967 when he plays Perry Smith in the film version of "In cold blood." Blake reached down into himself, into his own experiences to create this character who was vulnerable and also murderous but who you, as a viewer, ended up having mixed feelings about. I guess the only thing I'm going to miss in this world is a poor old man and his hopeless dreams. His performance was acclaimed, and he was offered everything after that. You would have thought that on the basis of this he'd be a star because this is a star making performance. But it doesn't seem to happen that way. He turned down "The wild bunch." He turned down "Midnight cowboy." The same role that made a star out of Dustin Hoffman. I'm walking here! What's amazing is how often he followed a big success with a sting of failures. Sometimes spending years before the next important project. Some of the movies that I've made have been what I consider have been just fun, a lark. Elliott Gould was a big star, he was a giant star. And I didn't have a job and Elliott Gould was going to make this movie called "Busting" about two cops. And Robert Blake I felt had a lot more experience than me and I thought, "He would be a great partner for me." He was funny and he loved to improvise. There was a scene where we both get beat up. I mean, really beat up and our nose is squished up. And we're both sitting in the cop office. We really get smashed up bad and

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"id":60322184,"title":"Robert Blake works his way up through the Hollywood ranks: Part 2","duration":"8:40","description":"Blake says he used his own abusive family background to portray Perry Smith in the 1967 film \"In Cold Blood\" - his \"big break\" as an adult actor. ","url":"/2020/video/robert-blake-works-hollywood-ranks-part-60322184","section":"2020","mediaType":"default"}