Sal Mineo

Salvatore Mineo Jr. (January 10, 1939 – February 12, 1976) was an American actor, singer, and director. He is best known for his role as John "Plato" Crawford in the drama film Rebel Without a Cause (1955), which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, making him the fifth-youngest nominee in the category.

Sal Mineo
Mineo in 1956
Salvatore Mineo Jr.

(1939-01-10)January 10, 1939
DiedFebruary 12, 1976(1976-02-12) (aged 37)
Cause of deathMurdered (stab wound to the heart)
Resting placeGate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York, U.S.
Other namesThe Switchblade Kid[1]
  • Actor
  • singer
  • director
Years active1951–1976

Mineo also starred in films such as Crime in the Streets, Giant (both 1956), Exodus (1960), for which he won a Golden Globe and received a second Academy Award nomination, The Longest Day (1962), John Ford’s final western Cheyenne Autumn, and Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971).

Early life and education

Mineo was born in the Bronx, the son of coffin makers Josephine (née Alvisi) and Salvatore Mineo Sr.[2][3] He was of Sicilian descent; his father was born in Italy and his mother, of Italian origin, was born in the United States. Mineo was the brother of actress Sarina Mineo and actors Michael and Victor Mineo. He attended the Quintano School for Young Professionals.[4][5]

Acting career

Child actor

Mineo's 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).[7] 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]

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.[8][9] 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. 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.[10] Mineo also successfully auditioned for a part in The Private War of Major Benson (1955), as a cadet colonel opposite Charlton Heston.[11]

Rebel Without a Cause and stardom

Mineo (left) with Sue George and John Saxon in a publicity still photo for Rock, Pretty Baby (1956).

Mineo's breakthrough as an actor came in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he played John "Plato" Crawford, a sensitive teenager smitten with main character Jim Stark (played by James Dean).[7] Mineo's performance resulted in an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. At age 17, he became the fifth-youngest nominee in the category.[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."[12]

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.[13] 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, Mineo was a major celebrity. He was 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]

Publicity still from The Gene Krupa Story (1959)

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.[14] The more popular of the two, "Start Movin' (In My Direction)", reached No. 9 on Billboard's pop chart. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.[15] 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?[16]

Mineo made an effort to break his typecasting.[17] In addition to his roles as a Native American brave in Tonka (1956),[17] and a Mexican boy in Giant (1956),[18] he played a Jewish Holocaust survivor in Exodus (1960); for his work in Exodus, he won a Golden Globe Award and received his second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.[19][20][17]

Career shift

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] Mineo appeared in The Longest Day (1962), in which he played a private 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."[21]

Mineo in 1973, photographed by Allan Warren

Mineo was the model for Harold Stevenson's painting The New Adam (1963). Now in the Guggenheim Museum's permanent collection, the painting is considered "one of the great American nudes."[22] Mineo also appeared on the Season 2 episode of The Patty Duke Show: "Patty Meets a Celebrity" (1964).[23][24][25][26]

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.[27][28] The high point of this period was his portrayal of Uriah in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).[29] Mineo guest-starred in an episode of the TV series Combat! in 1966, playing the role of a GI wanted for murder.[30] He did two more appearances on the same show, including appearing in an installment with Fernando Lamas.[31]

In 1969, Mineo returned to the stage to direct a Los Angeles production of the gay-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.[32] Mineo's last role in a motion picture was a small part in the film Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971);[33] he played the chimpanzee Dr. Milo.

Mineo stage-directed a Gian Carlo Menotti opera entitled The Medium in December 1972 in Detroit.[34] 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. One of his last roles was a guest spot on the TV series S.W.A.T. (1975),[35] in which he portrayed a cult leader similar to Charles Manson.

By 1976, Mineo's career had begun to turn around.[36] 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.[37][38][39]

Personal life

Mineo met English-born actress Jill Haworth on the set of the film Exodus in 1960, 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. According to Mineo biographer Michael Gregg Michaud, Haworth cancelled the engagement after she caught Mineo engaging in sexual relations with another man.[40] The two did remain very close friends until Mineo's death.[40][41] 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?"[40] While some have described Haworth as being nothing but a close friend and a "beard" to Mineo to conceal his same-sex partners,[42] Michaud casts doubt upon this claim; he asserts that Mineo's and Haworth's relationship was genuine, that Mineo fell in love with Haworth, and that Mineo regarded her as one of the important people in his life.[40]

In a 1972 interview with Boze Hadleigh, Mineo discussed his bisexuality.[43] At the time of his death, he was in a six-year relationship with male actor Courtney Burr III.[40][44]


Mineo's footstone (also containing the name of Michael, his brother) in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in New York State

On the night of February 12, 1976, the actor returned home following a rehearsal for the play P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. After parking his car in the carport below his West Hollywood apartment, the 37-year-old was stabbed in the heart by a mugger who fled the scene.[45][46] Police pursued leads but assumed the crime to be the result of some sort of "homosexual motivation". Following the police investigation into the crime, a young African-American pizza delivery man with a long criminal record was arrested, named Lionel Ray Williams. Williams was tried and sentenced in March 1979 to 57 years in prison for both killing Mineo and committing 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.[36] Williams's wife later confirmed that on the night Mineo died, he had come home with blood on his shirt.

Mineo was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.[47]



Year Title Role Notes
1955 Six Bridges to Cross Jerry (boy)
1955 The Private War of Major Benson Cadet Col. Sylvester Dusik
1955 Rebel Without a Cause John "Plato" Crawford Academy Award nomination 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 Won a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination
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
1973 Harry O Walter Scheerer


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", (final appearance)

Awards and nominations

Institution Category Year Work Result
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor 1956 Rebel Without a Cause Nominated
1961 Exodus Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor 1961 Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Best Single Performance by an Actor 1957 Studio One Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Male Supporting Performance 1961 Exodus Won

See also

  • List of oldest and youngest Academy Award winners and nominees – Youngest nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • List of actors with Academy Award nominations
  • List of actors with two or more Academy Award nominations in acting categories
  • List of LGBTQ Academy Award winners and nominees



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  47. 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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