He was born Salvatore Mineo, Jr. in the Bronx, on January 10,1939.
I have a very odd connection to Sal Mineo. In 1976, I was actually an acquaintance of the man charged with his murder. This was nothing sordid. This man was pursuing one of my best friends. WCK3 & I were concerned for our friend because this mystery man seemed especially troubling. Sal Mineo's death was major news in LA that February. WCK3 & I really had the chills when this creepy man, who had been aggressively working on our good friend, was charged with the movie star’s demise.
Sal Mineo was nominated for an Academy Award 2 times, & he enjoyed success as a stage director & recording artist, but he is mostly remembered for his performance in Rebel Without A Cause & for the brutal murder that ended his life just as he was on the verge of reinventing himself & his career.
You can feel the sexual heat of the actors in this screen test.
He made his first film appearance in 1955, & appeared in many screen productions, usually playing ethnic& troubled youths. Mineo's career was dominated by that single role that eventually achieved mythic status: Plato in Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without A Cause (1955). Mineo's homosexuality was a fairly open secret even at the height of his Hollywood success. He had affairs with Peter Lawford, James Dean, & with Nicholas Ray during the filming of Rebel Without A Cause.
With maturity, he sought to explore his homosexuality in his life & his art. Although he appeared in several television productions & films (his last film was Planet Of The Apes), he found the theater more supportive of his aspirations & sensibilities.
From one of my favorite shows of the era- Shindig! in 1967
In 1969, he directed the Broadway & West Coast productions of Fortune & Men's Eyes, John Herbert's exploration of power roles & homosexuality at a prison. Mineo's production was controversial for its nudity & simulated sex.
In 1976, he was cast as a bisexual burglar in a LA production of James Kirkwood's P. S. Your Cat Is Dead. As he returned to his West Hollywood apartment from a rehearsal on February 12, 1976, he was stabbed to death. The murder remains cloaked in mystery. A suspect who initially confessed later recanted, but was nevertheless convicted. Over the years, Mineo's friends & relatives have claimed that the authorities, eager to solve a high profile murder case, charged the wrong man. He was just 37 years old when he was murdered.