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George Nader, 80; Star of ‘50s Movies

TIMES STAFF WRITER

George Nader, whose beefcake image made him a popular leading man in movies of the 1950s, died of pneumonia Monday at the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills. He was 80.

A virile hero in the mode of Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis, Nader made more than 50 films, including “Six Bridges to Cross” with Curtis, “Lady Godiva” with Maureen O’Hara, and “Sins of Jezebel” with Paulette Goddard.

He later turned to television roles and writing. He wrote the novel “Chrome,” published in 1978, which occupied an unusual niche in the science-fiction world for its exploration of love between two gay robots.

He was a close friend of Hudson and was named a beneficiary of the actor’s estate after his death from AIDS in 1985.

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Nader was born in Los Angeles and earned a degree in English from Occidental College in 1943. During World War II he served in the Navy as a communications officer in the Pacific Theater.

After the war he studied at the Pasadena Playhouse, where his performances drew the attention of Hollywood casting directors. He landed a contract with Universal and had his first starring role in the 1951 movie “Monsoon,” opposite German actress Ursula Theiss.

Another early movie, the 3-D “Robot Monster” in 1953, became a cult classic that once was named one of the 50 worst movies in history. It did well at the box office, however, and by 1954 Nader was recognized with a Golden Globe as Most Promising Male Newcomer of the year.

His other screen appearances during the ‘50s included “Away All Boats,” a World War II action film that also starred Jeff Chandler, and “The Second Greatest Sex,” a musical about women out West going on a sex strike to protest their men’s violence that also featured Bert Lahr, George Marshall and Mamie Van Doren.

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When movie offers began to fade, Nader turned to television. He starred as the fictional detective Ellery Queen in a syndicated version of the show that ran for one season in 1958-59. He also was featured in the half-hour crime series “Shannon” in 1961.

During the 1960s he acted in Europe in low-budget films, including a string of action thrillers in West Germany.

Nader retired from acting in 1974 after suffering an eye injury and developing glaucoma.

He was a major source for “Rock Hudson: His Story,” the authorized biography by Sara Davidson that was published in 1986. Davidson said that Hudson and Nader became friends during Hudson’s early years in Hollywood, when both hid their homosexuality from the public, and that they helped each other maintain a straight image.

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Nader’s longtime companion, Mark Miller, worked as Hudson’s personal secretary for 13 years. He and Miller were among the few confidants who knew that Hudson had AIDS. They were named beneficiaries of the star’s $27-million estate, which later became the target of a lawsuit by Hudson’s former lover, Marc Christian.

A longtime Palm Springs resident, Nader is survived by Miller and three cousins. Following a private service, Nader will be cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.


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