Actor/writer/artist/student/jack-of-all-trades James Franco recently directed a film called Sal, about the life of actor Sal Mineo. The film opened at the Venice Film Festival in September.
Mineo is best remembered for his performance as Plato in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. When I first heard about Sal, I was excited. Mineo, as an actor and a celebrity, has always fascinated me. The first time I watched Rebel Without a Cause, all I could think about was how the most rebellious act in the film wasn’t the fights between youths or the hyper-aware Jim Stark (as portrayed by James Dean) trying to explain why he’s so unhappy. It was the bond between Jim and Plato.
Fast forward to the 5:40 mark for a touching moment between Dean and Mineo.
I wondered what it would’ve been like to have been a gay kid living in the 1950s and seeing Mineo look at Dean in a way that only I probably picked up. It was almost like the film spoke in a secret code or handshake.
Mineo’s depiction of Plato – a misunderstood and undervalued young man – could even be considered to be a parable for his career. Mineo was often typecast as “the troubled one.” He even tried to play a more dangerous side to this type in the 1965 film Who Killed Teddy Bear?
Mineo’s career stalled somewhat in the late 1960s. But the role that may have pigeonholed him is also that which makes him memorable. I, for one, am anxiously waiting for Sal to finish its tour of the festival circuit and find its way into theatres.