George Nader began his acting career in the years immediately following WWII. During the 1950s, he was a key member of the Universal Pictures stable of actors and appeared in a host of Hollywood movies.
By the 1960s, however, his career had moved on both geographically and metaphorically. Nader’s most notable role during that decade was as the lead in a series of German TV movies. The part he played was of the no-nonsense FBI agent, Jerry Cotton.
The character of Jerry Cotton originated in a long-running series of magazine-style pulp fiction novels in Germany. Many different authors have contributed to those novels, which are still being produced to this day. The 2,500th edition, in fact, was released in 2005.
The first of them was written and released way back in 1954. By the mid-1960s, the novels had gained widespread popularity. That popularity persuaded a major German studio to make the first ever Jerry Cotton movie.
George Nader as Jerry Cotton
That first Jerry Cotton movie was titled ‘Tread Softly’ and was made in 1965. George Nader, who by that time had been somewhat shunned by mainstream Hollywood, was cast as the lead.
In the movie, Nader’s Cotton went undercover to infiltrate and thwart a gang of safe crackers. A kind of American James Bond for a German audience, Nader’s Cotton and Tread Softly itself proved popular.
A further seven Jerry Cotton films were made between 1965 and 1969. The first three were black and white like Tread Softly, with the remaining four progressing to colour. The films were titled Manhattan Night of Murder (1965), Tip Not Included (1966), The Trap Snaps Shut at Midnight (1966), Murderers Club of Brooklyn (1967), Death in the Red Jaguar (1968), Death and Diamonds (1968), and Dead Body on Broadway (1969).
All eight films starred Nader as Cotton and German actor Heinz Weiss as his trusty sidekick, Phil Dekker. Cotton and Dekker faced many dangers through the course of the film series, including gangs of extortionists, missing shipments of nitro-glycerine and violent diamond robbers.
Whilst they aren’t particularly well known elsewhere, the Jerry Cotton films remain enduringly popular in Germany. They are a TV staple to this day and are regularly repeated across German networks. In the 1990s, too, the soundtracks of the original films were re-released on CD.
Perhaps the best sign of how popular Jerry Cotton remains in German, however, came in 2010. It was in that year that the franchise was re-booted, with the release of a brand new film. Billed as an action comedy, the film was simply named ‘Jerry Cotton’ and saw German actor Christian Tramitz take over from Nader in the lead role.