1939 - 1976

“It would be easy to blame Hollywood to say that I was typed and forced to play the same role over and over. For a while, I did. But the truth is that I knew what I was doing. I was enjoying myself. I was making money.”

– Sal Mineo

Born in the Bronx on January 10, 1939, Sal Mineo was in a street gang by age eight. Eventually he was given the choice of a juvenile confinement or acting school. Mineo chose acting. His breakthrough film role in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) as Plato, the teen infatuated with Jim (James Dean), earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Overnight, Mineo was one of Hollywood’s hottest young actors whose troubled youth roles eventually earned him the nickname the Switchblade Kid. His additional film appearances from the period include The Gene Krupa Story, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Giant, Crime in the Streets, and Tonka. The teen sensation even had a top 10 song Start Movin' (In My Direction) in 1957. Mineo earned a second Oscar nomination for his role in Exodus (1960). Despite work on TV and in all star films like The Longest Day and The Greatest Story Ever Told, Mineo’s career sank as he aged out of his signature roles. In the late 1960s, he became one of the first major Hollywood actors to come out publicly, even directing a production of the gay themed play Fortune and Men’s Eyes in 1967.  Although his last major film appearance was in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Mineo worked steadily in TV shows like Harry O, Columbo, S.W.A.T., and Hawaii Five-O. During a 1972 interview, Mineo talked about his bisexual identity. In 1976 Mineo’s career seemed on the rebound with his stage success as the bisexual burglar in P.S. Your Cat is Dead. Arriving home after a rehearsal on February 12, 1976, the 37 year old actor was stabbed to death behind his West Hollywood apartment building. At the time of Mineo’s death, he was in a long-term relationship with gay actor Courtney Burr III. Following a lengthy investigation, a pizza deliveryman, was charged with the random homicide. 


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Bisexual

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Homophile Movement (1945-1969) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution





US History


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Allo Kerstein
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell