Mineo in 1973
Salvatore Mineo, Jr.
(1939-01-10)January 10, 1939
|Died||February 12, 1976(1976-02-12) (aged 37)
|Cause of death||Murder by stabbing|
|Resting place||Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York, U.S.|
|Other names||The Switchblade Kid|
Salvatore Mineo, Jr. (January 10, 1939 – February 12, 1976), 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). Mineo was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and Exodus (1960).
Early life and career
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. He had his first stage appearance in Tennessee Williams' play The Rose Tattoo (1951). 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.
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.
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. Mineo also successfully auditioned for a part in The Private War of Major Benson (1955), as a cadet colonel opposite Charlton Heston.
Rebel Without a Cause and aftermath
Mineo's breakthrough as an actor came in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), 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. 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."
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. 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). 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. 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. 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?.
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. 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. 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.
Mineo stage-directed a Gian Carlo Menotti opera entitled The Medium in December 1972 in Detroit. 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. 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, and is considered "one of the great American nudes."
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. The two did remain very close friends until Mineo's death. 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?" While some have described Haworth as being nothing but a close friend and a "beard" to Mineo to conceal his same-sex partners, 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.
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.
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. Mineo was stabbed just once, but the knife blade struck his heart.
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. 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. Williams was defended by jazz bassist and lawyer Mort Herbert.
|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||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", (final appearance)|
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- Jeffers, Paul (2000). Sal Mineo: His Life, Murder, and Mystery. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-0777-1.
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- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 94. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- [What's My Line? - Sal Mineo; Ernie Kovacs (panel); Martin Gabel (panel) (Jun 30, 1957)]
- Davidsmeyer, Jo. "Nothing to Lose". Combat! Fan Site. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
-  Archived February 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
- Stevenson, Harold. "The New Adam Article". Archived from the original on 2008-09-22.
- Ellis, Chris; Ellis, Julie (2005). The Mammoth Book of Celebrity Murder. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. pp. 419–422. ISBN 0-7867-1568-5.
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- Michael Gregg Michaud. "The Relevance of Sal Mineo". Retrieved September 29, 2015.
- "Cause Célèbre—A Review Of Sal Mineo: A Biography & Interview With The Author". Retrieved September 29, 2015.
- "Boze Hadleigh interview with Sal Mineo, 1972". Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
- Matthew Carey. "Book helps rediscover murdered Hollywood star". CNN. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
- "Obituary". Variety. February 18, 1976. p. 126.
- Rachael Bell (2008). "The Switchblade Kid: The Life and Death of Sal Mineo". TruTV. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
The autopsy revealed that Sal died of a single stab wound to the heart.
- 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.
- "Actor Sal Mineo Is Stabbed to Death". Los Angeles Times. 2006-02-12. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
- Frascella, Lawrence & Weisel, Al (2005). Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause. Touchstone. ISBN 0-7432-6082-1.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- 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.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- Jeffers, H. Paul (2002). Sal Mineo: His Life, Murder, and Mystery. Running Press.
- Michaud, Michael Gregg (2010). Sal Mineo: A Biography. Harmony.
- "Official Website". SalMineo.com.
- Sal Mineo at Find a Grave
- Sal Mineo at the Internet Broadway Database
- Sal Mineo on IMDb
- Sal Mineo at the Internet Off-Broadway Database