Sal Mineo

Sal Mineo

Infobox actor
name = Sal Mineo

imagesize = 150px
birthname = Salvatore Mineo, Jr.
birthdate = birth date|1939|1|10|mf=y
birthplace = The Bronx, New York
deathdate = death date and age|1976|2|12|1939|1|10|mf=y
deathplace = West Hollywood, California
othername = The Switchblade Kid
website =
goldenglobeawards = Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1961 "Exodus"

Salvatore "Sal" Mineo, Jr. (January 10, 1939February 12, 1976) was a Golden Globe-winning American film and theatre actor, best known for his Academy Award-nominated performance opposite James Dean in the film "Rebel Without a Cause".

Mineo, born in The Bronx, the son of Sicilian coffin makers, was enrolled by his mother in dancing and acting school at an early age.

Acting career

Early career

Mineo had his first stage appearance in "The Rose Tattoo" (1951),Citation
last = Holliday
first = Peter J.
title = Mineo, Sal (1939-1976)
accessdate = 2008-07-20
] a play by Tennessee Williams. He also played the young prince opposite Yul Brynner in the stage musical "The King and I". Brynner took the opportunity to help a young Mineo better himself as an actor.Citation
last = Bell
first = Rachael
title = The Switchblade Kid: The Life and Death of Sal Mineo
accessdate = 2008-07-20

After film and television appearances, his breakthrough was "Rebel Without A Cause", in which he played John "Plato" Crawford, the sensitive teenager smitten with Jim Stark (played by James Dean). His performance resulted in an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, and his popularity quickly skyrocketed. Mineo's biographer, Paul Jeffers, recounted that Mineo received thousands of fan letters from young female admirers, was mobbed by them at public appearances and further wrote, "He dated the most beautiful women in Hollywood and New York." [cite book
last = Jeffers
first = Paul
authorlink = Paul Jeffers
title = Sal Mineo: His Life, Murder, and Mystery
publisher = Carroll & Graf Publishers
location = New York
date = 2000
pages =
doi =
isbn = 0786707771

Mineo played a Mexican boy in "Giant" (1956), but many of his subsequent roles were variations of his role in "Rebel Without a Cause", and he was typecast as a troubled teen.Citation
last = Smith
first = Laura C.
title = Untimely End for a 'Rebel'
accessdate = 2008-07-20
] In the Disney adventure "Tonka", for instance, Mineo starred as a young Sioux named White Bull who traps and domesticates a clear-eyed, spirited wild horse named "Tonka" who becomes the famous horse Comanche.

In his book, "Multiculturalism And The Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment" (2006), Douglas Brode states that the very casting of Mineo as White Bull again "ensured a homosexual subtext". By the late 1950s the actor was a major celebrity, sometimes referred to as the "Switchblade Kid" - a nickname he earned from his role as a criminal in the movie "Crime in the Streets".

In 1957, Mineo made a brief foray into music by recording a handful of songs and an album. Two of his singles reached the Top 40 pop charts.cite web|url=|title=Sal Mineo Mini biography||accessdate=2008-07-25] The more popular of the two, "Start Movin' (In My Direction)", reached #9 on Billboard's Pop chart. He starred as drummer Gene Krupa in the movie "The Gene Krupa Story", co-starring Susan Kohner, James Darren, and Susan Oliver, and directed by Don Weis.

Meanwhile, Mineo made an effort to break his typecasting. His acting ability and exotic good looks earned him not only roles as a Native American boy in "Tonka", but also as a Jewish emigrant in Otto Preminger's "Exodus", for which he received another Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

Attempted resurgence

By the early 1960s, he was getting too old to play the types that had made him famous and for a variety of reasons was not considered appropriate for leading roles. He auditioned for David Lean's film "Lawrence of Arabia" but was not hired. Mineo was baffled by his sudden loss of popularity, later saying "One minute it seemed I had more movie offers than I could handle, the next, no one wanted me."

His role as a stalker in "Who Killed Teddy Bear?", co-starring Juliet Prowse, did not seem to help. Although his performance was praised by critics, he found himself typecast anew, now as a deranged criminal. (He never entirely escaped this; one of his last roles was a guest spot on the 1975 TV series "S.W.A.T." playing a Charles Manson-like cult leader.) He returned to the stage to produce the 1971 gay-themed"Fortune and Men's Eyes" (which starred Don Johnson). Theplay got positive reviews in Los Angeles, but was panned during a run in New York and its expanded prison rape scene was criticized as excessive and gratuitous. A small role in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" (1971) as chimpanzee Dr. Milo would be Mineo's last movie appearance.

elected filmography

Feature films


By 1976 Mineo's career was turning around.cite book|last=Ellis|first=Chris|coauthors=Julie Ellis|title=The Mammoth Book of Celebrity Murder|publisher=Carroll & Graf Publishers|location=New York|pages=419-422|isbn=0786715685|accessdate=2008-07-22] Playing the role of a gay burglar in a San Francisco run of the stage comedy "P.S. Your Cat Is Dead", he received substantial publicity from many positive reviews and moved on to Los Angeles with the play. Arriving home after a rehearsal on February 12 1976, Mineo was stabbed to death in the alley behind a West Hollywood apartment building. He was 37 years old. He was stabbed just once, not repeatedly as first reported, but the blade struck his heart, leading to immediate and massive internal bleeding. [cite web |url= |title=The Switchblade Kid: The Life and Death of Sal Mineo |accessdate=2008-07-12 |work=Rachael Bell |publisher=Turner Broadcasting System, Inc |date=2008 ] Mineo was interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York. [Citation
last = Find a Grave
first =
title = Sal Mineo
accessdate = 2008-07-20

According to Warren Johansson and William A. Percy's "Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence", he was murdered under circumstances that suggested "a homosexual motive". Mineo identified himself as bisexual in a 1972 interview, published after his death, but his biography notes that he dated men exclusively in the last years of his life.

Arrest in Mineo's killing

A pizza deliveryman, Lionel Ray Williams, was sentenced to 57 years in prison for killing Mineo and committing 10 robberies in the same vicinity. [Citation
last = Los Angeles Times
first =
title = Actor Sal Mineo Is Stabbed to Death
accessdate = 2008-07-20
] Although there was considerable confusion relating to what witnesses had seen in the darkness the night Mineo was murdered, it was later that prison guards reportedly overheard Williams admitting to the crime. Williams claimed he had no idea who Mineo was. Williams was paroled in the early 1990s, but was soon jailed again for criminal activity.Citation
last = Noe
first = Denise
title = The Murder of Sal Mineo
accessdate = 2008-07-20

At the opera

Mineo's career included involvement with opera. On May 8 1954, he portrayed the Page (lip-synching to the voice of mezzo-soprano Carol Jones) in the NBC Opera Theatre's production of Richard Strauss"'Salome" (in English translation), set to Oscar Wilde's play. Elaine Malbin performed the title role, and Peter Herman Adler conducted Kirk Browning's production.

In December 1972, Mineo stage directed Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Medium",cite web|url=|title=The New Adam Article|last=Stevenson |first=Harold |accessdate=2008-07-22] in Detroit. Muriel Costa-Greenspon portrayed the title character, Madame Flora, and Mineo himself played the mute Toby.


Sal Mineo was the model for Harold Stevenson's painting "The New Adam". The painting is currently part of Guggenheim Museum's permanent collection, [Citation
last = Mann
first = Ted
title = The New Adam
accessdate = 2008-07-20
] and is considered "one of the great American nudes".cite web|url=|title=Exposure for a Nude |last=Vogel|first=Carol|accessdate=2008-07-22]



* Frascella, Lawrence and Weisel, Al "Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause" (Touchstone, 2005) ISBN 0-7432-6082-1
* Gilmore, John, "Laid Bare: A Memoir of Wrecked Lives and the Hollywood Death Trip" (Amok Books, 1998) ISBN 1-878923-08-0
* Johansson, Warren & Percy, William A. "Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence." (Harrington Park Press, 1994), p.91.

External links

* [ Hadleigh interview with Sal Mineo, 1972]

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