He got involved in singing with the Avalon Boys quartet in the 1930s, then performed on Vaudeville, In 1938, he decided to dedicate himself to acting in film.
In addition to his role in The Alamo, he had a serious role in the 1956 film, Giant, and voiced Francis the Mule in a series of films.
He was born in Seagoville, Texas. He was married to his second wife, Novadeen Googe, from 1973 to 1978.
One of his ads for his Oscar candidacy addressed to his Hollywood cohorts read, "Win, lose or draw, you're all my cousins and I love you." To this message Groucho Marx responded in another ad, "I am delighted to be your cousin, but I voted for Sal Mineo."