Sal Mineo

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Sal Mineo
Sal mineo Allan Warren.jpg
Mineo in 1973
Salvatore Mineo, Jr.

(1939-01-10)January 10, 1939
DiedFebruary 12, 1976(1976-02-12) (aged 37)
Cause of deathMurder by stabbing
Resting place Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York, U.S.
Other namesThe Switchblade Kid [1]
Years active1951–1976

Salvatore Mineo, Jr. (January 10, 1939 February 12, 1976), [2] was an American film and theatre actor who is known for his performance as John "Plato" Crawford opposite James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause (1955). [3] Mineo was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and Exodus (1960).

Film sequence of images that give the impression of movement

A film, also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, or photoplay, is a series of still images that, when shown on a screen, create the illusion of moving images.

Theatre collaborative form of performing and fine art

Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers, typically actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance. Elements of art, such as painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience. The specific place of the performance is also named by the word "theatre" as derived from the Ancient Greek θέατρον, itself from θεάομαι.

Actor person who acts in a dramatic or comic production and works in film, television, theatre, or radio

An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hupokritḗs), literally "one who answers". The actor's interpretation of their role—the art of acting—pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art.


Early life and career

Mineo was born in the Bronx, the son of coffin makers Josephine (née Alvisi) and Salvatore Mineo, Sr. [4] [5]

He was of Sicilian descent; his father was born in Italy and his mother, of Italian origin, was born in the United States. His mother enrolled him in dancing and acting school at an early age. [6] He had his first stage appearance in Tennessee Williams' play The Rose Tattoo (1951). [3] He also played the young prince opposite Yul Brynner in the stage musical The King and I . Brynner took the opportunity to help Mineo better himself as an actor. [1]

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 18 megadiverse countries.

On May 8, 1954, Mineo portrayed the Page (lip-synching to the voice of mezzo-soprano Carol Jones) in the NBC Opera Theatre's production of Richard Strauss's 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.

A mezzo-soprano or mezzo (, ; Italian: [ˈmɛddzo soˈpraːno] meaning "half soprano") is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range lies between the soprano and the contralto voice types. The mezzo-soprano's vocal range usually extends from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e. A3–A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4; 220–880 Hz). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the F below middle C (F3, 175 Hz) and as high as "high C" (C6, 1047 Hz). The mezzo-soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic mezzo-soprano.

NBC American television and radio network

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American English-language commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The network is headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, with additional major offices near Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network is one of the Big Three television networks. NBC is sometimes referred to as the "Peacock Network", in reference to its stylized peacock logo, introduced in 1956 to promote the company's innovations in early color broadcasting. It became the network's official emblem in 1979.

Richard Strauss German composer and orchestra director

Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; his tone poems, including Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben, Symphonia Domestica, and An Alpine Symphony; and other instrumental works such as Metamorphosen and his Oboe Concerto. Strauss was also a prominent conductor in Western Europe and the Americas, enjoying quasi-celebrity status as his compositions became standards of orchestral and operatic repertoire.

As a teenager, Mineo appeared on ABC's musical quiz program Jukebox Jury , which aired in the 1953-1954 season. Mineo made several television appearances before making his screen debut in the Joseph Pevney film Six Bridges to Cross (1955). He beat out Clint Eastwood for the role. [7] Mineo also successfully auditioned for a part in The Private War of Major Benson (1955), as a cadet colonel opposite Charlton Heston. [8]

American Broadcasting Company American broadcast television network

The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is an American commercial broadcast television network that is a flagship property of Disney–ABC Television Group, a subsidiary of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. The network is headquartered on Columbus Avenue and West 66th Street in Manhattan, New York City. There are additional major offices and production facilities elsewhere in New York City, as well as in Los Angeles and Burbank, California.

<i>Jukebox Jury</i> television series

Jukebox Jury was an hour-long television series hosted by disc jockey Peter Potter which aired in the 1953-1954 season on ABC, and was syndicated in 1959.

Joseph Pevney American actor and director

Joseph Pevney was an American film and television director.

Rebel Without a Cause and aftermath

Mineo's breakthrough as an actor came in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), [3] 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 developed. [1] Mineo's biographer, Paul Jeffers, recounted that Mineo received thousands of letters from young female fans, was mobbed by them at public appearances, and further wrote: "He dated the most beautiful women in Hollywood and New York City." [9]

<i>Rebel Without a Cause</i> 1955 American film directed by Nicholas Ray

Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama film about emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers. Filmed in the recently introduced CinemaScope format and directed by Nicholas Ray, it offered both social commentary and an alternative to previous films depicting delinquents in urban slum environments. The film stars James Dean, Sal Mineo, and Natalie Wood.

James Dean American actor

James Byron Dean was an American actor from Indiana. He is remembered as a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and surly ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956).

Hollywood Neighborhood of Los Angeles in California, United States

Hollywood is a neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California, notable as the home of the U.S. film industry including several of its historic studios. Its name has come to be a shorthand reference for the industry and the people associated with it.

Gigi Perreau with Mineo signing autographs at the premiere of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) Perreau&Mineo.jpg
Gigi Perreau with Mineo signing autographs at the premiere of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)

In Giant (1956), Mineo played Angel Obregon II, a Mexican boy killed in World War II. Many of his subsequent roles were variations of his role in Rebel Without a Cause, and he was typecast as a troubled teen. [10] In the Disney adventure Tonka (1958), for instance, Mineo starred as a young Sioux named White Bull who traps and domesticates a clear-eyed, spirited wild horse named Tonka that becomes the famous Comanche, the lone survivor of Custer's Last Stand.

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 (1956). [1] In 1957, Mineo made a brief foray into pop music by recording a handful of songs and an album. Two of his singles reached the Top 40 in the United States' Billboard Hot 100. [11] The more popular of the two, "Start Movin' (In My Direction)", reached #9 on Billboard's pop chart. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. [12] He starred as drummer Gene Krupa in the movie The Gene Krupa Story (1959), directed by Don Weis with Susan Kohner, James Darren, and Susan Oliver. He appeared as the celebrity guest challenger on the June 30, 1957, episode of What's My Line?. [13]

Mineo made an effort to break his typecasting. His acting ability and exotic good looks earned him roles as the Native American boy in the above-mentioned film Tonka (1956), a Mexican boy in the above-mentioned film Giant (1956), and as a Jewish emigrant in Otto Preminger's Exodus (1960), for which he won a Golden Globe Award and received another Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

Career decline and attempted revival

By the early 1960s, Mineo was becoming too old to play the type of role that had made him famous, and his rumoured homosexuality led to his being considered inappropriate for leading roles. For example, he auditioned for David Lean's film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) but was not hired. [6] He also appeared in The Longest Day (1962), wherein he played a private who is killed by a German after the landing in Sainte-Mère-Église. 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." The high point of this period was his portrayal of Uriah in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Mineo also appeared on the Season 2 episode of The Patty Duke Show : "Patty Meets a Celebrity" (1964). There are stories he attempted to revive his career by camping out on the front lawn of Francis Ford Coppola's home, for a chance to win the role of Fredo Corleone in The Godfather (1972), but the role went to John Cazale. Mineo guest-starred in an episode of ABC's TV series Combat! in 1966, playing the role of a GI wanted for murder. [14] He did two more appearances on the same show, including appearing in an installment with Fernando Lamas.

Mineo's role as a stalker in Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965), which co-starred Juliet Prowse, did not seem to help his career. Although his performance was praised by critics, he found himself typecast again--this time as a deranged criminal. Mineo never entirely escaped this characterization. One of his last roles was a guest spot on the TV series S.W.A.T. (1975), in which he portrayed a cult leader similar to Charles Manson.

In 1969, Mineo returned to the stage to direct a Los Angeles production of the LGBT-themed play Fortune and Men's Eyes (1967), featuring then unknown Don Johnson as Smitty and himself as Rocky. The production received positive reviews, although its expanded prison rape scene was criticized as excessive and gratuitous.

In 1970, Mineo was crowned King of the Beaux Arts Ball. Presiding with him as his Queen was Madeleine Le Roux. [15]

Mineo's last motion picture role was a small part in the film Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971); he played the chimpanzee Dr. Milo.

Mineo stage-directed a Gian Carlo Menotti opera entitled The Medium in December 1972 in Detroit. [16] Muriel Costa-Greenspon portrayed the title character, Madame Flora, and Mineo played the mute Toby.

In 1975, Mineo appeared as Rachman Habib, the assistant to a murderous consular head of a Middle Eastern country, in the Columbo episode "A Case of Immunity," on NBC-TV. Mineo also appeared in two episodes of Hawaii Five-O , in 1968 and 1975.

By 1976, Mineo's career had begun to turn around. [17] While playing the role of a bisexual burglar in a series of stage performances of the comedy P.S. Your Cat Is Dead in San Francisco, Mineo received substantial publicity from many positive reviews; he moved to Los Angeles along with the play.

The New Adam

Mineo was the model for Harold Stevenson's painting The New Adam (1963). The painting currently is part of the Guggenheim Museum's permanent collection, [18] and is considered "one of the great American nudes." [19]

Personal life

Mineo met actress Jill Haworth on the set of the film Exodus , in which they portrayed young lovers. Mineo and Haworth were together on-and-off for many years. They were engaged to be married at one point, though she canceled the engagement when she became aware of an affair Sal was having with singer Bobby Sherman. [20] The two did remain very close friends until Mineo's death. [20] [21] Mineo expressed disapproval of Haworth's brief relationship with the much older television producer Aaron Spelling. One night, when Mineo found Haworth and Spelling at a private Beverly Hills nightclub, he punched Spelling in the face, yelling, "Do you know how old she is? What are you doing with her at your age?" [20] While some have described Haworth as being nothing but a close friend and a "beard" to Mineo to conceal his same-sex partners, [22] Mineo biographer Michael G. Michaud denies this claim; Michaud describes Mineo and Haworth's relationship as a normal heterosexual relationship, avers that Mineo fell in love with Haworth, and states that Mineo regarded her as one of the most important people in his life. [20]

In a 1972 interview with Boze Hadleigh, Mineo discussed his bisexuality. [23] At the time of his death, he was in a six-year relationship with male actor Courtney Burr III. [20] [24]

Michael G. Michaud wrote a biography of Mineo, with the majority of this information coming from Haworth and Burr. In Sal Mineo: A Biography, Michaud claimed that Mineo had sexual relations with then-teen idol Bobby Sherman. He claimed Mineo never had any sexual relations with either James Dean or Don Johnson. Mineo was also close friends with David Cassidy, another teen idol. [20]


The footstone of Sal Mineo in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in New York State 1 Sal Mineo cr.jpg
The footstone of Sal Mineo in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in New York State

Mineo was arriving home after a rehearsal on February 12, 1976, when he was stabbed to death in the alley behind his apartment building near the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California. [25] Mineo was stabbed just once, but the knife blade struck his heart. [26]

He was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York. [27]

In March 1979, pizza deliveryman Lionel Ray Williams was sentenced to 57 years in prison for killing Mineo and for ten robberies in the same area. [28] Although considerable confusion existed as to what witnesses had seen in the darkness the night Mineo was murdered, Williams claimed to have had no idea who Mineo was. Corrections officers later said they had overheard Williams admitting to the stabbing. [17] Williams was defended by jazz bassist and lawyer Mort Herbert.


Publicity still from The Gene Krupa Story. Salmineo2.jpg
Publicity still from The Gene Krupa Story.
1955 Six Bridges to Cross Jerry (boy)Screen début
1955 The Private War of Major Benson Cadet Col. Sylvester Dusik
1955 Rebel Without a Cause John "Plato" CrawfordNominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1956 Crime in the Streets Angelo "Baby" Gioia, a.k.a. Bambino
1956 Somebody Up There Likes Me Romolo
1956 Giant Angel Obregón II
1956 Rock, Pretty Baby Angelo Barrato
1957 Dino Dino Minetta
1957 The Young Don't Cry Leslie "Les" Henderson
1958 Tonka White Bull
1959 A Private's Affair Luigi Maresi
1959 The Gene Krupa Story Gene Krupa
1960 Exodus Dov Landau Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1962 Escape from Zahrain Ahmed
1962 The Longest Day Pvt. Martini
1964 Cheyenne Autumn Red Shirt
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Uriah
1965 Who Killed Teddy Bear? Lawrence Sherman
1967 Stranger on the Run George Blaylock
1969 Krakatoa, East of Java Leoncavallo Borghese
1969 80 Steps to Jonah Jerry Taggart
1971 Escape from the Planet of the Apes Dr. Milo

Television work

1952 The Vision of Father Flanagan LesTV Movie
1952 A Woman For The Ages CharlesTV Movie
1953 Omnibus Paco"The Capitol of the World"
1954 Janet Dean, Registered Nurse Tommy Angelo"The Magic Horn"
1955 Big Town "Juvenile Gangs"
1955 Omnibus "The Bad Men"
1955 The Philco Television Playhouse "The Trees"
1955 Frontiers of Faith "The Man on the 6:02"
1956 Look Up and Live "Nothing to Do"
1956 The Alcoa Hour Paco"The Capitol of the World", "The Magic Horn"
1956 Westinghouse Studio One "Dino"
1956 Look Up and Live "Nothing to Do"
1956 Lux Video Theatre "Tabloid"
1956 Screen Directors Playhouse "The Dream"
1956 Climax! Miguel"Island in the City"
1957 The Ed Sullivan Show HimselfEpisodes 10.42, 10.48
1957 Kraft Suspense Theatre Tony Russo"Barefoot Soldier", "Drummer Man"
1957 Kraft Music Hall HimselfEpisode 10.8
1958 The DuPont Show of the Month Aladdin"Cole Porter's Aladdin"
1958 Pursuit Jose Garcia"The Garcia Story"
1959 The Ann Sothern Show Nicky Silvero"The Sal Mineo Story"
1962 The DuPont Show of the Week Coke"A Sound of Hunting"
1963 The Greatest Show on Earth Billy Archer"The Loser"
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Ernie"The World I Want"
1964 Dr. Kildare Carlos Mendoza"Tomorrow is a Fickle Girl"
1964 Combat! Private Kogan"The Hard Way Back"
1965 The Patty Duke Show Himself"Patty Meets a Celebrity"
1965 Burke's Law Lew Dixon"Who Killed the Rabbit's Husband?"
1966Combat!Vinnick"Nothing to Lose"
1966Combat!Marcel Paulon"The Brothers"
1966 Mona McCluskey "The General Swings at Dawn"
1966 Run for Your Life Tonio"Sequestro!: Parts 1 and 2"
1966 Court Martial Lt. Tony Bianchi"The House Where He Lived"
1966 The Dangerous Days of Kiowa Jones Bobby Jack WilkesTV Movie
1967 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Doctoroff"A Song Called Revenge"
1967 Stranger on the Run George BlaylockTV Movie
1968 Hawaii Five-O Bobby George"Tiger By The Tail"
1969 The Name of the Game Sheldon"A Hard Case Of The Blues"
1970 Mission Impossible Mel BrackenFlip Side
1970 The Challengers Angel de AngeloTV Movie
1970The Name of the GameWade Hillary"So Long, Baby, and Amen"
1971 My Three Sons Jim Bell"The Liberty Bell"
1971 The Immortal Tsinnajinni"Sanctuary"
1971 Dan August Mort Downes"The Worst Crime"
1971 In Search of America NickTV Movie
1971 How to Steal an Airplane Luis OrtegaTV Movie
1972 The Family Rico Nick RicoTV Movie
1973 Griff President Gamal Zaki"Marked for Murder"
1973 Harry O Walter Scheerer"Such Dust as Dreams Are Made On"
1974 Tenafly Jerry Farmer"Man Running"
1974 Police Story Stippy"The Hunters"
1975 Columbo Rachman Habib"A Case of Immunity"
1975Hawaii Five-OEddie"Hit Gun for Sale"
1975Harry OBroker"Elegy for a Cop"
1975 SWAT Roy"Deadly Tide: Parts 1 and 2"
1975SWAT'Joey Hopper"A Coven of Killers"
1975Police StoryFobbes"Test of Brotherhood"
1976 Ellery Queen James Danello"The Adventure of the Wary Witness"
1976 Joe Forrester Parma"The Answer", (final appearance)

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  13. [What's My Line? - Sal Mineo; Ernie Kovacs (panel); Martin Gabel (panel) (Jun 30, 1957)]
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  15. Archived February 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
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  27. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 32658-32659). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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See also

Further reading