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" Final Resting Place of Sal Mineo"
January 10th 1939 - February 12th 1976
Actor - Murdered in his driveway (see Celebrity Death Sites)
Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York.
Salvatore Mineo, Jr. was an American actor and theater director, famous for his Academy Award-nominated performance opposite James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause.
Mineo was born in The Bronx, New York City as the son of a Sicilian coffin maker, was enrolled by his mother in dancing and acting school at an early age.
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. His biographer Paul Jeffers recounted that Mineo received thousands of fan letters from young female admirers, was mobbed by them at public appearances and further wrote, "He dated the most beautiful women in Hollywood and New York." On the other hand, in An Introduction to Film Studies (2003), Jill Nelmes discusses "how gay men derived particular sub-cultural messages from such films as Rebel without a cause when empathising with the relationship between Jim (James Dean) and Plato (Sal Mineo)." According to Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon's Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day, Dean's "loving tenderness towards the besotted Sal Mineo in "Rebel without a Cause" touches and excites "gay audiences by its honesty." Mineo was later reunited with Dean in "Giant", 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. In the Disney adventure Tonka, for instance, Mineo starred as a young Sioux named White Bull who traps and domesticates a clear-eyed, spirited wild horse named "Tonka". In his book, Multiculturalism And The Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment (2006), Douglas Brode states that the very 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."
In 1957, Mineo made a brief foray into music by recording a handful of songs and an album. Two of his singles reached the Top 40 pop charts.
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" 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."
His role as a stalker in Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1964) didn't seem to help. Although his performance was praised by critics, he found himself typecast anew, now as a deranged criminal. He returned to the stage to produce the gay-themed "Fortune and Men's Eyes", starring Don Johnson of later Miami Vice fame. Although the play got positive reviews in Los Angeles, it was panned during a run in New York and its expanded prison rape scene was criticized as excessive and prurient. A string of failed projects and flops followed, with a small role in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" (as chimpanzee Dr. Milo) turning out to be Mineo's last movie appearance.
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 his West Hollywood apartment building. According to Warren Johansson and William A. Percy's Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence, p.91, he was murdered under circumstances that suggested "a homosexual motive." When he died, Mineo was 37. 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 frequently boasted of the crime, which appears to have been a botched mugging. Williams was paroled in 1990 after serving 12 years but was jailed numerous times thereafter for parole violations.
Mineo is interred in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York.