This week marked what would have been the 90th birthday of actor/author George Nader (October 21, 1921-February 4, 2002), whose Hollywood career never approached the fame of his lifelong friend, Rock Hudson, but who is fondly remembered at Chelsea Pines Inn (both George and Rock are celebrated in their own one-bedroom suites).
As a child growing up in the movie palaces of the 1950s (my dad owned or managed movie theaters in Brooklyn most of his adult life), I was fascinated by Hollywood movie stars, but none more than George Nader. Incredibly handsome, very masculine, and yet warmly engaging, George was a contract player throughout the 1950s at Universal-International. While this guaranteed him steady work in a varied line of studio projects (westerns, musicals, comedies, action and adventure films), none of them propelled him to the top of the box office heap. Rock Hudson got the best roles (and they were none too good most of the time), followed by Tony Curtis, Jeff Chandler and then, finally, George. Nonetheless, you could hardly pick up any movie magazine of the period, and not find George’s smiling, bare-chested likeness.
When his film contract ended, he went into television series, both as a continuing lead (an early Ellery Queen) and as a guest star (several “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” Andy Griffith’s show), but ultimately wound up in Europe in the mid-60s, like so many other actors of his generation who could no longer get Hollywood roles. He was luckier than most, as he became a big star in Germany, playing Jerry Cotton, an American James Bond-type in a very popular series of films.
He hadn’t been heard from in a while when he suddenly published the first-ever “gay” scifi novel, “Chrome” in 1978. He and his longtime companion, Mark Miller (Mark and George were the executor’s of Rock Hudson’e estate) also wrote another novel, a sort-of tell-all Hollywood tale, “The Perils of Paul,” which was privately published.
Shortly before he died, I wrote a long letter to George, telling him on my lifelong admiration, and thanking him for “coming out” long before it was fashionable or accepted. He responded with a great collection of stuff, including autographed photos, a first edition copy of “Chrome” as well as a copy of his unpublished novel. I was very touched, and grateful that I had a chance to tell him how much he meant to me as a “closeted” child.
For more information on his career, and lots more photos, check out the great webpage on Brian’s Drive-In, the home of all B-movie actors for film addicts like me: http://www.briansdriveintheater.com/georgenader.html.