Farewells: Sal Mineo (1939 - 1976)

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Sal Mineo
Sal Mineo (left) with James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause
Sal Mineo (left) with James Dean in "Rebel Without A Cause"...
The first time Sal Mineo had a switchblade pulled on him he was in the fourth grade. This was exactly the kind of violent scene his parents tried to escape when they moved to the Bronx from Harlem.

Unfortunately, by the time Sal, who was born on January 10, 1939, reached grade school, the neighborhood had deteriorated. To help their son realize there was another way to live, his parents sent Sal to acting classes.

When he was 11, a theatrical producer visited his class and picked him for a small role in Tennessee Williams's play The Rose Tattoo.

In 1952 Sal received critical acclaim for his performance as the crown prince in the Broadway production of The King and I. After two years in the play, Sal appeared in his first movie, Six Bridges to Cross. A year later, he co-starred in The Private War of Major Benson.

In 1955 he was cast in a movie that would earn him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor: Rebel Without a Cause. Sal was also nominated for an Emmy for his performance in Dino on Studio One.

In the late 1950s Sal recorded several pop songs. "Start Movin'" sold more than a million copies. In 1960 he received a second Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his performance in Exodus. By the late 1960s Sal was disillusioned with his life in Hollywood. He sold his big house and decided to concentrate on projects that would bring him personal fulfillment. He was particularly interested in producing a sreen version of Charles Graham's novel McCaffrey.

Sal also acted in and directed plays, most notably Fortune in Men's Eyes. On February 12, 1976, Sal had his second encounter with a switchblade. ollowing a rehearsal for the play P.S., Your Cat Is Dead, Sal headed home o his apartment in West Hollywood. In the building's basement garage, he as confronted by a man wielding a knife. Neighbors heard screams and found Sal lying in a pool of blood. Within minutes Sal Mineo was dead.

Ironically, that same day William Belasco, his producing partner, had finalized a deal with a major studio to start production on McCaffrey. A memorial service for Sal was scheduled to be held at Belasco's home. It never took place. The night before the service, Belasco was killed in an automobile accident.
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