Robert Blake

  1. Michael Landon, Bonanza, TV, 1959-1973.    Young Landon (too young, said producer David Dortort) beat both Roberts – Blake and Fuller – to Little Joe, youngest of the Cartwright clan. Landon never got on with “brother” Pernell Roberts, but kept the faith with producer Kent McCray, director William F Claxton, composer David Rose. They stayed on his team during Little House on the Prairie, 1974-2010, and Highway to Heaven, 1984-1989.
  2. Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy, 1968.  I’m makin’ a mistake here…  Blake simply passed on being conman Enrico Salvatore “Ratso” Rizzo in the only American X-rated production to win (three) Oscars. a Best Picture, Adapted Script and Director Oscars. Plus nominations for the three stars, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight and Sylvia Miles.   
  3. Jamie Sanchez, The Wild Bunch, 1969.
  4. George Segal, Bridge At Remagen, 1969.    His hit series did not help net movies. “I was becoming Mr Second Chance Charly around town…. But I didn’t want to go off and leave my family. I knew when it got down to it, I wouldn’t get on the plane to Czechoslovakia.” Those that did soon wished they hadn’t, finding themselves in the midst of the Russian invasion of Prague.
  5. Dustin Hoffman, Lenny, 1974.    Blake found nothing good since In Cold Blood, 1967.  Until… too late, Hoffman got it! 
  6. James Garner, The Rockford Files, TV, 1974-1980.    This private dick didn’t like to rumble. Fine. Except Blake was short and that made him look like a coward. So, Stephen J Cannell created another shamus series for him, ABC’s Baretta, 1975-1978. Rockford’s co-writer/co-producer David Chase created something way more iconic during 1999-2007.  The Sopranos.
  7. Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
  8. James Caan, Funny Lady, 1975.    La Barb invited the Billy Rose lookalike home for a reading and then asked him to play the role. “I just did,” said Blake, striding out of the Streisand mansion – and movie.
  9. Paul Michael Glaser, The Great Houdini, TV, 1976.     Two TV stars and one film star – PMG, Blake and Charles Bronson – were chased by (usually comedy) auteur Melville Shavelson for his take on the life, times and magic illusions of Harry Houdini – last played by Tony Curtis in 1952. Followed over the years by Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel, Guy Pearce, Will Wheaton and in 1999’s Cremaster 2… Norman Mailer!
  10. Roy Scheider, Sorcerer/The Wages of Fear, 1977.    “They say, ‘Gee, we want you,’ and all that kinda shit. And then, suddenly, it gets very foggy and I’m being told, ‘Well, we’ll let you know’ and all that kinda shit. I decided to tell them to go fuck themselves – and I couldn’t get ’em on the phone. So I did it in the papers. You wanna wish somebody happy birthday, you take out an ad in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. My ad to Friedkin said: Put The Sorcerer where the sun never shines, Peace & Love, Robert Blake.”

  11. Robert Conrad, Centennial, TV, 1978-1979.   Flummoxed by the necessary French-Canadian accent for Pasquinel. Charles Bronson also passed. Conrad studied with a dialect coach. And George Clooney was an extra in the first chapter.  He was 16.
  12. Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, 1979.  When director Bob Fosse was convinced (by his health) not to try and play his screen self, Broadway choreographer Joe Gideon was chased and/or avoided by… Blake, Alan Alda, Alan Bates (“too British,” said Fosse), Warren Beatty (keen, but Gideon must not die at the end!), Richard Dreyfuss (“afraid of the dancing”), Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Jack Lemmon (“too old”), Paul Newman (“Dumb of me… a terrible oversight”), Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, George Segal, Jon Voight. Scheider just grabbed the “outrageous, assaulting, melodramatic, very funny, stupid, silly, simplistic, vulgar…wonderful movie!” Exactly.
  13. Jack Nicholson, The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1981.    Instead, he played another killer in Lost Highway, 1997, inspired by the OJ Simpson case. Blake was later tried for the 2001 murder of his second wife – and was also controversely acquitted.
  14. Jack Nicholson, The Border, 1981 The feud continued… First, Jack took Blake’s old lady Sandra Knight away and wed her (1962-1968), and  second, the best role Blake had been offered since making the Baretta series.  Universal just didn’t want to play (or pay) with  Blake.  Result: A rare Nicholson flop.
  15. Bruce Willis, Moonlighting, TV, 1985-1989.  NBC ikon Brandon Tartikoff set out to seduce Blake back into TV (not difficult as his post-Baretta films flopped). When  the actor came up with the idea of Hell Town, he was already short-listed for the private eye David Addison Jr in ABC’s Moonlighting. Tartikoff went for Blake’s pilot and 15 episodes “in order to try to screw somebody, I probably screwed myself”  – making the other producer Glenn Gordon Caron settle for  the last of about 3,000 possible Addisons, some unknown guy from a Miami Viceepisode. Apart from Blake, the idea had always been  an unknown as private eye David Addison Jr  – opposite Cybill Shepherd in, basically, a Taming of the Shrew update. Among the other candidates known to me were: actor-writer Rick Dees from Florida, Cyb’s favourite, Harley Venton from Kate & Allie. And the guy she feared after three call-backs, Maurice LaMarche, the Canadian stand-up and impressionist – known for his Orson Welles, Transformers and  Monty Pythonesque (video-game) voices.  Presumably, she  feared he might steal the show.  No, Willis did that!
  16. Stephen Lang, Last Exit To Brooklyn, 1989.     Arthur Hiller’s 1975 plans were stymied by the Last Tango uproar.
  17. George Clooney, From Dusk Till Dawn, 1995.      Better known at the time for Return of the Killer Tomatoes than the hit TV show, ER, Clooney lost out on Reservoir Dogs. Robert Rodriguez caught him on the Politically Incorrect TV show and preferred him to Blake as Tarantino’s Gecko. Joel Schumacher drew a bat-cowl over Clooney’s head in the Dusk media ads and found his new Batman.








 Birth year: 1933Death year: 2023Other name: Casting Calls:  17