Sal MineoJanuary 10, 1939 - February 12, 1976) 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, born in The Bronx, New York City as the son of Sicilian emigrants, was enrolled by his mother in dancing and acting school at an early age. In 1950, he had his first stage appearance in The Rose Tattoo, 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 lesser films, his breakthrough was Rebel Without A Cause (1955), in which he gave an impressive performance as "John 'Plato' Crawford", the unstated but apparently gay teenager smitten with James Dean's "Jim Stark".
While explicit mention of homosexuality was not permissible in Hollywood movies at the time, the reportedly bisexual James Dean dared Mineo to let his real-life desires for Dean shine through considerably in the scenes between them. Mineo was later reunited with Dean in Giant, albeit only in a few scenes.
Mineo's slightly exotic good looks also earned him roles such as those of an Indian boy in Tonka or of a Jewish emigrant in Otto Preminger's Exodus, for which he received another Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. In the 1960s, rumors about his sexual orientation began to spread, prompting Hollywood's increasing reluctance to cast him in A-list movies. Thus, he turned to the stage again, producing the gay-themed Fortune And Men's Eyes, starring Don Johnson of later Miami Vice fame.
In 1957, Mineo made a brief foray into music by recording a handful of songs and an album, and two of the songs reached the Top 40 pop charts.
Coming home from an audition for the play, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead (later to be adapted into a movie by Steve Guttenberg), where he was to play a gay burglar, Mineo was stabbed to death in front of his West Hollywood home. He was 37.
Although a man named Lionel Ray Williams was later sentenced to life in prison for killing Mineo, considerable doubts about Williams' involvement in the crime remained, since there apparently was no immediate motive for the murder. Williams was paroled in 1990 after serving 12 years but has been jailed numerous times since for parole violations.