Sal Mineo born 10 January 1939 (d. 1976)
Salvatore 'Sal' Mineo, Jr. was an American movie and stage actor, best known for his Academy Award-nominated performance opposite James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause.
Mineo had his first stage appearance in The Rose Tattoo (1950), a play by Tennessee Williams. He also played the young prince opposite Yul Brynner in the stage musical The King and I.
After a few more film and television appearances his breakthrough was Rebel Without A Cause (1955) in which he gave an impressive performance as John 'Plato' Crawford, the sensitive teenager smitten with James Dean's Jim Stark. Mineo was later reunited with Dean in Giant (1956), although only in a few scenes.
Many of his subsequent roles were variations of his role in Rebel Without a Cause and he often played juvenile delinquents. By the late 1950s the actor was a major celebrity, sometimes referred to as the 'Switchblade Kid'.
In 1957, Mineo made a brief foray into music by recording a handful of songs and an album. Two of his singles reached the US Top 40 pop charts. He starred as drummer Gene Krupa in the movie The Gene Krupa Story (1959).
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 (1960) for which he received another Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor (and reportedly was bitterly disappointed when he didn't win.)
By the early 1960s he was getting too old to play the types that had made him famous and for a variety of reasons wasn't considered appropriate for leading roles. He auditioned for David Lean's film Lawrence of Arabia but wasn't 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.'
By 1976 Mineo's career seemed to be turning around again. 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.
A career criminal named Lionel Ray Williams was later sentenced to life in prison for killing Mineo. Although there was considerable confusion relating to what witnesses had seen in the darkness the night Mineo was murdered, Williams was reported to have boasted of the crime, which turned out to be a botched mugging - despite years of speculation that the murder had a 'homosexual' motive. At the time of the murder, Williams had no idea who Sal Mineo was. Williams was paroled in 1990, after serving 12 years, but was jailed numerous times afterwards for parole violations.
Mineo is interred in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York.
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