Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Every Disney Hero Has a Voice – White Bull

 Every Disney Hero Has a Voice
Sal Mineo ~ White Bull
January 10, 1939 – February 12, 1976

Salvatore "Sal" Mineo, Jr. (January 10, 1939 – February 12, 1976), was an American film and theatre actor, best known for his performance as John "Plato" Crawford opposite James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause. He was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and Exodus.

Early life and career

Mineo was born in the Bronx, the son of coffin makers Josephine (née Alvisi) and Salvatore Mineo, Sr. He was of Sicilian descent; his father was born in Italy and his mother had been born in the U.S. of Italian origin. His mother enrolled him in dancing and acting school at an early age. He had his first stage appearance in The Rose Tattoo (1951), a play by Tennessee Williams. He also played the young prince opposite Yul Brynner in the stage musical The King and I. Brynner took the opportunity to help Mineo better himself as an actor.
As a teenager, Mineo appeared on ABC's musical quiz program Jukebox Jury, which aired in the 1953-1954 season. Mineo made several television appearances before making his screen debut in 1955 in the Joseph Pevney film Six Bridges to Cross. He beat out Clint Eastwood to the role. Mineo had also successfully auditioned for a part in The Private War of Major Benson as a cadet colonel opposite Charlton Heston.

Rebel Without a Cause

His breakthrough then came in Rebel Without a Cause, in which he played John "Plato" Crawford, the sensitive teenager smitten with Jim Stark (played by James Dean). His performance resulted in an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, and his popularity quickly developed. Mineo's biographer, Paul Jeffers, recounted that Mineo received thousands of letters from young female fans, was mobbed by them at public appearances and further wrote, "He dated the most beautiful women in Hollywood and New York."
In Giant (1956), Mineo played Angel Obregon II, a Mexican boy killed in World War II; but many of his subsequent roles were variations of his role in Rebel Without a Cause, and he was typecast as a troubled teen. In the 1959 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" who becomes the famous Comanche, the lone survivor of Custer's Last Stand.
In Multiculturalism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment (2006), Douglas Brode states that the 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"—a nickname he earned from his role as a criminal in the movie Crime in the Streets.
In 1957, Mineo made a brief foray into pop music by recording a handful of songs and an album. Two of his singles reached the Top 40 in the United States Billboard Hot 100.  The more popular of the two, "Start Movin' (In My Direction)", reached #9 on Billboard's pop chart. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. He starred as drummer Gene Krupa in the movie The Gene Krupa Story, directed by Don Weis with Susan Kohner, James Darren and Susan Oliver.
Mineo made an effort to break his typecasting. His acting ability and exotic good looks earned him roles as a Native American boy in Tonka, and as a Jewish emigrant in Otto Preminger's Exodus, for which he won a Golden Globe Award and received another Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

Career decline and attempted revival

By the early 1960s, he was becoming too old to play the type of role that had made him famous and was not considered appropriate for leading roles. He auditioned for David Lean's film Lawrence of Arabia but was not 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." The high point of this period was his portrayal of Uriah in The Greatest Story Ever Told. Mineo also appeared on The Patty Duke Show in its second season (1964). The episode was called "Patty Meets a Celebrity". There are stories he attempted to revive his career by camping out on the front lawn of Francis Ford Coppola's home for a chance to win the role of Fredo in The Godfather, but the role went to John Cazale. In 1966, Mineo guest starred in an episode of ABC's Combat!, playing the role of a G.I. wanted for murder.
His role as a stalker in Who Killed Teddy Bear?, co-starring Juliet Prowse, did not seem to help. Although his performance was praised by critics, he found himself typecast anew, now as a deranged criminal. (He never entirely escaped this; one of his last roles was a guest spot on the 1975 TV series S.W.A.T. playing a Charles Manson-like cult leader.) He returned to the stage to produce the 1971 gay-themed Fortune and Men's Eyes (starring Don Johnson). This play gathered positive reviews in Los Angeles but was panned during its New York run, and its expanded prison rape scene was criticized as excessive and gratuitous. A small role in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) as the chimpanzee Dr. Milo was Mineo's last appearance in a motion picture. In 1973, Mineo appeared as Rachman Habib, assistant to the president of a Middle Eastern country, in the episode "A Case of Immunity" on the NBC crime drama Columbo. He also appeared in two episodes of Hawaii Five-O, in 1968 and 1975.


In the late 1960s, Mineo became one of the first major actors in Hollywood to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality.


By 1976, Mineo's career had begun to turn around. Playing the role of a bisexual burglar in a series of stage performances of the comedy P.S. Your Cat Is Dead in San Francisco, Mineo received substantial publicity from many positive reviews, and he moved to Los Angeles along with the play. Arriving home after a rehearsal on February 12, 1976, Mineo was stabbed to death in the alley behind his apartment building in West Hollywood, California. He was 37 years old. Mineo was stabbed just once, not repeatedly as first reported, but the knife blade struck his heart, leading to immediate and fatal internal bleeding. Mineo's remains were interred in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.

Arrest and conviction in Mineo's murder

After a lengthy investigation, pizza deliveryman Lionel Ray Williams was arrested for the crime. In March 1979 he was convicted and sentenced to 57 years in prison for killing Mineo and for committing 10 robberies in the same area. Although there was considerable confusion as to what witnesses had seen in the darkness on the night Mineo was murdered, it was later revealed that prison guards had overheard Williams admitting to the stabbing. Williams had claimed that he had no idea who Mineo was. Rumors that the attack was in response to Mineo soliciting Williams for sex were unfounded. There has been speculation that Williams is connected to the unsolved murder of actress Christa Helm, who was murdered in the same neighborhood in a strikingly similar way, one year later on the very same day. Williams was not arrested until after the murder of Helm.
Williams was paroled in the early 1990s, but he was imprisoned again soon for criminal activity.


Sal Mineo was the model for Harold Stevenson's painting The New Adam. The painting is currently part of Guggenheim Museum's permanent collection, and is considered "one of the great American nudes".


Mineo's career included involvement with opera. On May 8, 1954, he portrayed the Page (lip-synching to the voice of mezzo-soprano Carol Jones) in the NBC Opera Theatre's production of Richard Strauss' Salome (in English translation), set to Oscar Wilde's play. Elaine Malbin performed the title role, and Peter Herman Adler conducted Kirk Browning's production.
In December 1972, Mineo stage directed Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium, in Detroit. Muriel Costa-Greenspon portrayed the title character, Madame Flora, and Mineo himself played the mute Toby.

Selected filmography

Six Bridges to Cross
Jerry (boy)
Screen debut
The Private War of Major Benson
Cadet Col. Sylvester Dusik
Rebel Without a Cause
John "Plato" Crawford
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Crime in the Streets
Angelo "Baby" Gioia, a.k.a. Bambino
Somebody Up There Likes Me
Angel Obregón II
Rock, Pretty Baby
Angelo Barrato
Dino Minetta
The Young Don't Cry
Leslie "Les" Henderson
White Bull
A Private's Affair
Luigi Maresi
The Gene Krupa Story
Gene Krupa
Dov Landau
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Escape from Zahrain
The Longest Day
Pvt. Martini
Cheyenne Autumn
Red Shirt
The Greatest Story Ever Told
Who Killed Teddy Bear
Lawrence Sherman
Stranger on the Run
George Blaylock
Krakatoa, East of Java
Leoncavallo Borghese
80 Steps to Jonah
Jerry Taggart
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Dr. Milo

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