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From the vault: Sal. A tribute by James Franco

Sal Mineo would have turned 79 today. Instead he died in 1976, murdered when he was 37 years old. Not nearly as young as James Dean, the iconic actor he starred alongside in Rebel Without a Cause, roles that would come to define both men in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

For Sal Mineo, James Dean was the man for whom his conflicted feelings probably made him understand his bisexual or homosexual nature. Apparently the label is arguable, while Mineo slept with both men and women, many believe he was  homosexual, pure and simple. I would think only Mineo knows for sure and he ain’t saying.

If I’d understood back then that a guy could be in love with another one, it would have happened. But I didn’t come to that realization for a few more years and then it was too late for Jimmy and me.

Sal Mineo was the subject of the film Sal directed by James Franco in 2011, the drama focuses on the last day of Sal Mineo’s life. The movie was culled from material in the biography by Michael Gregg Michaud. 

Sal Mineo is played by Val Lauren while Franco—who famously played James Dean back in 2001—is acting coach Milton Katselas. The film is available to stream on iTunes, GooglePlay, Amazon, Vudu, etc but to be honest Sal isn’t a critically acclaimed film. Roger Ebert gave it 1.5 out of 4 stars, it has a 44% on rotten tomatoes and 4 out of 10 on imdb. But you can’t blame Franco for trying. I don’t know what’s going on in his personal life right now but one thing is certain. James Franco who just won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his work in The Disaster Artist—which he also directedis the very definition of prolific.


  1. Sal Mineo was murdered? Somehow I can’t get past that opening statement. Not that I know much of anything about the guy, which is one reason I appreciate having you for a source.

    1. Thanks Emily! Yes, he was stabbed to death. Here's the info from history.com
      Actor Sal Mineo is stabbed to death in Hollywood, California. Mineo was parking his car behind his apartment when neighbors heard his cries for help. Some described a white man with brown hair fleeing the scene. By the time they reached Mineo, he was almost dead from a deep wound to his chest. He died minutes later.

      Sal Mineo was a famous teen actor in the 1950s. He co-starred with James Dean in both Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. The transition to adult roles did not come easily for Mineo, but he later appeared in films such as The Longest Day and Escape From the Planet of the Apes, and consistently performed guest spots on television series. On the night he was killed, Mineo was returning from rehearsing for a play.

      For two years, the police searched in vain for clues to the killer’s identity. At first, they suspected that Mineo’s work for prison reform had put him in contact with a dangerous ex-con. Then their focus shifted to Mineo’s personal life. Investigators had discovered that his home was filled with pictures of nude men. But the homosexual pornography also failed to turn up any leads.

      Then, out of the blue, Michigan authorities reported that Lionel Williams, arrested on bad check charges, was bragging to everyone that he had killed Mineo. Although he later retracted his stories, at about the same time, his wife back in Los Angeles told police that he had come home the night of the murder drenched in blood. However, there was one major discrepancy–Williams was black with anAfro and all of the eyewitnesses had described the perpetrator as a white man with long brown hair.

      Fortunately, the police were able to unearth an old photo of Williams in which his hair had been dyed brown and processed so that it was straight and long. In addition, the medical examiner had made a cast of Mineo’s knife wound and police were able to match it to the description of the knife provided by Williams’ wife. Lionel Williams was convicted and given a sentence of life in prison.


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