Pages

19 October 2013

Imported from the USA: George Nader

Ruggedly handsome American actor George Nader (1921-2002) was a Universal star of second features in the 1950s. Was the muscular beefcake star then sacrificed to the tabloids in order to save Rock Hudson's heterosexual reputation? During the 1960s, Nader’s career had a second life in the European cinema as secret agent Jerry Cotton.

George Nader as Jerry Cotton
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg, no. 4250. Photo: Constantin / Studio Hamburg / Allianz / Astoria / Winterstein. Publicity still for Schüsse aus dem Geigenkasten/Operation Hurricane: Friday Noon (Fritz Umgelter, 1965) with George Nader as Jerry Cotton.

Tall And Muscular


George Nader was born in Pasadena, California, USA in 1921 (1932 according to some sources). He was the second son of Alice (née Scott) and George G. Nader, vice-president of a grocery chain.

During World War II he served in the US Navy as a communications officer in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. After the war, he earned his bachelor of arts in theatre arts at Occidental College and appeared in productions at the Pasadena Playhouse.

In 1947, he met Mark Miller, who had one of the lead roles in a Pasadena Playhouse production of Oh, Susannah! Nader was in the chorus. The two fell in love and established a household together. Miller had intended to go to New York to study opera but abandoned his plans in order to stay in California and help Nader launch his career.

Nader got small parts in the Western Rustlers on Horseback (Fred C. Brannon, 1950) and other B-movies. He got the lead role as Roy, the hero who saves the world from the clutches of ‘Ro-man’ in the low-budget 3D thriller Robot Monster (Phil Tucker, 1953). The film shot in only four days for a mere sixteen thousand dollars, took in over a million dollars in its first run. In the 1980s the Medved brothers listed it among the ‘50 worst films of all time’ and it became a cult classic.

The tall and muscular Nader had also a sonorous voice and was offered a contract by Universal Pictures. He usually played parts that emphasized his ‘beefcake’ and he frequently appeared in swimsuits with his chest hair intact.

In the mid-1950s, he played in several popular films, like the Western Four Guns to the Border (Richard Carlson, 1954) with Rory Calhoun, the crime drama Six Bridges to Cross (Joseph Pevney, 1955) opposite Tony Curtis, and the WWII actioner Away All Boats (Joseph Pevney, 1956), co-starring with Jeff Chandler. In 1954, he even won a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer.

Unfortunately, the studio already had such good-looking and athletic stars as Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis on its roster. Nader often found himself being cast in such second features as the Film Noirs Appointment with a Shadow (Richard Carlson, 1957) and The Female Animal (Harry Keller, 1958), with Hedy Lamarr in her final appearance.

George Nader
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 440. Photo: Universal / Filmpress, Zürich.

George Nader
Vintage postcard, no. 30. Photo: Universal International.

George Nader
British postcard in the Celebrity Autograph Series by Celebrity Publishers Ltd., London, no. 224. Photo: Universal. Publicity still for Lady Godiva of Coventry (Arthur Lubin, 1955).

G-man Jerry Cotton


At the end of the 1950s, George Nader tried his hand at TV series, including the NBC adventure offering The Man and the Challenge (1959–1960) and Shannon (1961-1962), and then relocated to Europe.

In Italy he played musketeer D’Artagnan in Il colpo segreto di d'Artagnan/The Secret Mark of D'Artagnan (Siro Marcellini, 1962) with Magali Noël. In Portugal he appeared in the Eurospy film Misión Lisboa/Mission Lisbon (Federico Aicardi, Tulio Demicheli, 1965).

But he found his biggest success in West Germany as G-man Jerry Cotton in the crime thriller Schüsse aus dem Geigenkasten/Operation Hurricane: Friday Noon (Fritz Umgelter, 1965). FBI-agent Cotton was Germany's answer to James Bond.

Murph-15 at IMDb: “In comparison to the Bond films, the Jerry Cotton movies are not as 'posh', but they are better stories. Operation Hurricane is the first and best of the series. The story is very interesting, with a few turns to keep the viewer going up to the end.”

In the following years, Nader enjoyed a modest career revival as Jerry Cotton in a series of such Eurospy films and he became the number two most popular film star in Germany behind Lex Barker.

His eight Cotton films include Die Rechnung - eiskalt serviert/Tip Not Included (Helmut Ashley, 1966), Der Tod im roten Jaguar/Death in the Red Jaguar (Harald Reinl, 1968) and finally Todesschüsse am Broadway/Broadway's Deadly Gold (Harald Reinl, 1969), with Heinz Weiss.

He returned to the US, where he played in TV series and in a final film, the fantasy Beyond Atlantis (Eddie Romero, 1973) starring Patrick Wayne. Nader retired completely from acting in 1974 because an eye injury made him particularly sensitive to the bright lights of movie sets.

According to an interview with the German fanzine Splatting Image his eye injury was the result of an accident during the production of the never released movie Zigzag (Albert Zugsmith, 1963), when a blank pistol round exploded too early next to his eyes. Filming took place in the Philippines, and no adequate treatment was taken in time, resulting in the partial loss of his eyesight.

George Nader
German promotion card for for Um Null Uhr schnappt die Falle zu/3-2-1 Countdown for Manhattan (Harald Philipp, 1966) with George Nader as Jerry Cotton.

George Nader as Jerry Cotton
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Constantin. Publicity still for Der Tod im Roten Jaguar/Death in the Red Jaguar (Harald Reinl, 1968) with George Nader as Jerry Cotton.

George Nader as Jerry Cotton
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg, no. 4249. Photo: Constantin / Studio Hamburg / Allianz / Astoria / Winterstein. Publicity still for Schüsse aus dem Geigenkasten/Operation Hurricane: Friday Noon (Fritz Umgelter, 1965) with George Nader as Jerry Cotton.

Forbidden Love


George Nader turned to writing and dabbled in real estate. His Sci-Fi novel Chrome (1978) told the story of forbidden love between a human and a robot, a metaphor about the place of gay men in society.

Nader and Mark Miller collaborated on a second novel, The Perils of Paul. It is about gays in Hollywood with names camouflaged and was published privately in hardcover in 1999.

In 1985, Nader was named one of the beneficiaries of Rock Hudson's $27M estate when the star died of AIDS.

Nader came out of the closet in 1986. Timothy Sexton at Yahoo! and IMDb both suggest that “Nader's career was sacrificed to (tabloid) Confidential in order to save Rock's much more lucrative heterosexual reputation".

In the mid-1950s, rumours about Nader's homosexuality had begun to surface. Nader and Miller were living together, but neither publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. Universal arranged for Nader to be seen on dates with beautiful stars as Martha Hyer and Piper Laurie.

Linda Rapp at glbtq: “One publicist even went so far as to suggest that to avoid being outed by Confidential. Nader should marry and then get a divorce a few years later. A female secretary was willing to participate in the scheme. Nader and Miller discussed the possibility, but Nader could not bring himself to take part in such a sham.”

Nader, many years later in an interview: “We lived in fear of an exposé, or even one small remark, a veiled suggestion that someone was homosexual. Such a remark would have caused an earthquake at the studio. Every month, when Confidential came out, our stomachs began to turn. Which of us would be it?”

However, such a tabloid article about Nader is not known (Confidential did publish an outing story about Tab Hunter). Nader and Hudson were life-long friends and Mark Miller was even Hudson's personal secretary for nearly 13 years.

In 2002, George Nader died at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles of a cardiac pulmonary failure, pneumonia and multiple cerebral infarctions. He was 80 and was survived by Mark Miller, with whom he had spent 55 years, and by two cousins and his nephew, actor Michael Nader.

George Nader
German postcard by ISV, no. E 38. Photo: Constantin. Publicity still for Die Rechnung - eiskalt serviert/Tip Not Included (Helmut Ashley, 1966) with George Nader as Jerry Cotton.

This was the ninth episode of 'Imported from the USA'. Earlier episodes were dedicated to Jayne Mansfield, Josephine Baker, Lex Barker, Anna May Wong, Carroll Baker, Farley Granger, Louise Brooks and Orson Welles.

Sources: Linda Rapp (glbtq), Army Archerd (Variety), Timothy Sexton (Yahoo!), Strange Words, The New York Times, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

No comments: