Sal Mineo

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Sal Mineo
Sal mineo Allan Warren.jpg
Born Salvatore Mineo, Jr.
(1939-01-10)January 10, 1939
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Died February 12, 1976(1976-02-12) (aged 37)
West Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death Homicide
Other names The Switchblade Kid[1]
Years active 1951–1976
Website http://www.salmineo.com

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

Early life and career[edit]

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]

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 had also successfully auditioned for a part in The Private War of Major Benson (1955), as a cadet colonel opposite Charlton Heston.[8]

Rebel Without a Cause and after[edit]

His 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."[9]

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, but 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.

In Multiculturalism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment (2006), Douglas Brode states that the 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 (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), 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[edit]

By the early 1960s, he was becoming too old to play the type of role that had made him famous, and his 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 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. Although his performance was praised by critics, he found himself typecast anew, now as a deranged criminal. He never entirely escaped this characterization. One of his last roles was a guest spot on the TV series S.W.A.T. (1975), playing a cult leader similar to Charles Manson.

In 1969, Mineo returned to the stage to direct a Los Angeles production of the gay-interest 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), as the chimpanzee Dr. Milo.

In 1975, Mineo appeared as Rachman Habib, assistant to the president of a Middle Eastern country, in the Columbo episode "A Case of Immunity", on NBC-TV. This episode was filmed entirely on location at Greenacres, the (by that time declining) estate of silent screen legend Harold Lloyd. Soon after the filming, the estate was sold and subdivided into 12 estate lots. Mineo also appeared in two episodes of Hawaii Five-O, in 1968 and 1975.

Personal life[edit]

Mineo met actress Jill Haworth at the set of the film Exodus, where they played young lovers, for which he won a Golden Globe Award and received another Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Mineo and Haworth were together on-and-off for many years, even getting engaged to be married at one point, though she canceled the engagement when she became aware of an affair Sal was having with Bobby Sherman. They did remain very close friends until Mineo's death.[16][17]

Mineo was very protective of Haworth, especially regarding Haworth's social circles. He clearly expressed disapproval of Haworth's brief relationship with the much older television producer Aaron Spelling. Haworth was 20 and Spelling was 42. One night when Mineo found Haworth and Spelling at a private Beverly Hills nightclub, he walked up and punched Spelling in the face, yelling, "Do you know how old she is? What are you doing with her at your age?"[16]

In a 1972 interview with Boze Hadleigh, Mineo discussed his bisexuality.[18] At the time of his death, he was in a 6-year relationship and was living with male actor Courtney Burr III.[16][19]

Michael G. Michaud wrote a biography of Mineo with the majority of information coming from Haworth and Burr. In his book, Michaud has confirmed that Mineo had sexual relations with then teen idol Bobby Sherman. He also cleared up rumours about Mineo's co-stars James Dean (in the film Rebel Without a Cause, 1955) and Don Johnson (in the play Fortune and Men's Eyes, 1969). Mineo never had any sexual relations with either Dean or Johnson. Johnson and Mineo had been roommates for a time and became friends. Mineo was also close friends with David Cassidy, another teen idol.[16][20]

Mineo has become a gay icon posthumously. Some people, mostly within the LGBT community, label him "homosexual" (even though Mineo himself has said he was "bisexual")[21] and say that Haworth was nothing but a close friend and "his beard".[22] Michaud denies this, describing Mineo and Haworth's relationship as a normal heterosexual relationship, and stating that Mineo fell in love with Haworth and regarded her as one of the most important people in his life.

Murder[edit]

The footstone of Sal Mineo in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in New York State

By 1976, Mineo's career had begun to turn around.[23] 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, and he moved to Los Angeles along with the play.

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.[24] Mineo was stabbed just once, not repeatedly as first reported, but the knife blade struck his heart, leading to immediate and fatal internal bleeding.[25] His remains were interred in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.[26]

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.[27] Although considerable confusion existed as to what witnesses had seen in the darkness the night Mineo was murdered, Williams claimed to have no idea who Mineo was. Corrections officers later said they had overheard Williams admitting to the stabbing.[23] Williams was defended by Mort Herbert.

Art[edit]

Sal 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,[28] and is considered "one of the great American nudes".[29]

Opera[edit]

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.

Mineo stage-directed Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium in December 1972 in Detroit.[30] Muriel Costa-Greenspon portrayed the title character, Madame Flora, and Mineo played the mute Toby.

Selected filmography[edit]

Publicity still from The Gene Krupa Story.
Year Title Role Notes
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" Crawford Nominated 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[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1952 The Vision of Father Flanagan Les TV Movie
1952 A Woman For The Ages Charles TV 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 Himself Episodes 10.42, 10.48
1957 Kraft Suspense Theatre Tony Russo "Barefoot Soldier", "Drummer Man"
1957 Kraft Music Hall Himself Episode 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?"
1966 Combat! Vinnick "Nothing to Lose"
1966 Combat! 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 Wilkes TV Movie
1967 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Doctoroff "A Song Called Revenge"
1967 Stranger on the Run George Blaylock TV 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 Bracken Flip Side
1970 The Challengers Angel de Angelo TV Movie
1970 The Name Of The Game Wade 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 Nick TV Movie
1971 How to Steal an Airplane Luis Ortega TV Movie
1972 The Family Rico Nick Rico TV 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"
1975 Hawaii Five-O Eddie "Hit Gun for Sale"
1975 Harry O Broker "Elegy for a Cop"
1975 SWAT Roy "Deadly Tide: Parts 1 and 2"
1975 SWAT" Joey Hopper "A Coven of Killers"
1975 Police Story Fobbes "Test of Brotherhood"
1976 Ellery Queen" James Danello "The Adventure of the Wary Witness"
1976 Joe Forrester" Parma "The Answer" (Last appearance)

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Bell, Rachael. "The Switchblade Kid: The Life and Death of Sal Mineo". Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 368. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ a b c Holliday, Peter J. "Mineo, Sal (1939-1976)". Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  4. ^ Guía del cine clásico: Protagonistas - Antonio Mendez - Google Books. Books.google.ca. Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  5. ^ Sal Mineo: A Biography - Michael Gregg Michaud - Google Books. Books.google.ca. Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  6. ^ a b Noe, Denise. "The Murder of Sal Mineo". Archived from the original on 2008-06-06. 
  7. ^ McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: The Life and Legend. London: Harper Collins. p. 63. ISBN 0-00-638354-8. 
  8. ^ Ellis, Chris; Ellis, Julie (27 July 2005). The Mammoth Book of Celebrity Murder: Murder Played Out in the Spotlight of Maximum Publicity. Berghahn Books. p. 415. ISBN 978-1-57181-140-0. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  9. ^ Jeffers, Paul (2000). Sal Mineo: His Life, Murder, and Mystery. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-0777-1. 
  10. ^ Smith, Laura C. (1995-02-10). "Untimely End for a 'Rebel'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  11. ^ "Sal Mineo Mini biography". salmineo.com. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  12. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 94. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  13. ^ [What's My Line? - Sal Mineo; Ernie Kovacs (panel); Martin Gabel (panel) (Jun 30, 1957)]
  14. ^ Davidsmeyer, Jo. "Nothing to Lose". Combat! Fan Site. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  15. ^ [1] Archived February 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ a b c d Michael Gregg Michaud. "Sal Mineo: A Biography". Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  17. ^ Michael Gregg Michaud. "The Relevance of Sal Mineo". Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Boze Hadleigh interview with Sal Mineo, 1972". Retrieved June 2, 2015. 
  19. ^ Matthew Carey. "Book helps rediscover murdered Hollywood star". CNN. Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Just Finished The New Sal Mineo Biography". Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Boze Hadleigh interview with Sal Mineo, 1972". Retrieved June 2, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Cause Célèbre—A Review Of Sal Mineo: A Biography & Interview With The Author". Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b Ellis, Chris; Ellis, Julie (2005). The Mammoth Book of Celebrity Murder. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. pp. 419–422. ISBN 0-7867-1568-5. 
  24. ^ "Obituary". Variety. February 18, 1976. p. 126. 
  25. ^ Rachael Bell (2008). "The Switchblade Kid: The Life and Death of Sal Mineo". TruTV. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  26. ^ Sal Mineo at Find a Grave
  27. ^ "Actor Sal Mineo Is Stabbed to Death". Los Angeles Times. 2006-02-12. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  28. ^ Mann, Ted. "The New Adam at the Guggenheim Museum". Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  29. ^ Vogel, Carol (2005-09-30). "Exposure for a Nude". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  30. ^ Stevenson, Harold. "The New Adam Article". 

Sources[edit]

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

Further reading[edit]

  • Jeffers, H. Paul (2002). Sal Mineo: His Life, Murder, and Mystery. Running Press. 
  • Michaud, Michael Gregg (2010). Sal Mineo: A Biography. Harmony. 

External links[edit]