First Gay Teenager?
Sal Mineo's Hollywood heyday was well before I was born (yes, that long ago) but when I was fourteen a saw a picture of him in a book from the movie Dino and kind of fell in love. (In fact, it's the very first picture at the top of this post. Thank you Google.) What I didn't know was that by then he was already dead, knifed in front of his home by a mugger. It has often been said that his character in Rebel Without A Cause was the first gay teenager in movies. I don't really think that's true, but it certainly is hard to deny the gay subtext in Plato's infatuation with Jim. When Sal Mineo went to Hollywood the studio system was still in force, although it was in its waning days. The studio arranged dates for him, manufactured romances for the gossip columns, and planted articles in the movie magazines about his "perfect girl." Sal did what anyone in his position had to do if they wanted movie careers. He played along. His career was going well- He had been nominated for the academy award twice by the time he turned 21, his first nomination coming when he was only 16. When he began to live his life as a more-or-less openly gay man in the 1960s the choice film offers mysteriously began to disappear. Most of the roles offered to him were as psychos and weaklings. Coincidence? His last film role was as a chimp in a Planet of the Apes movie.