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 Carl Mayer

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Carl Mayer

  • Birth 20 Nov 1894 Graz, Graz Stadt, Styria (Steiermark), Austria
  • Death 1 Jul 1944 London, City of London, Greater London, England
  • Burial Highgate, London Borough of Camden, Greater London, England
  • Memorial ID 3212

Screenwriter. He is widely considered the single most important figure in the "Golden Age" of German Cinema of the 1920s. Mayer was born in Graz, Austria. When he was 16 his father committed suicide after losing a fortune in gambling, and he worked various jobs to support himself and his three younger brothers. In Berlin after World War I he met a young Czech poet, Hans Janowitz, and together they wrote the script for the Expressionist classic "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1919). Its initial inspiration was a troubled affair Mayer had with the actress Gilda Langer. For this lurid tale of a sideshow proprietor who uses a somnambulist to commit a series of vengeful murders, the authors insisted on distorted, deliberately artificial sets to visualize a society falling apart at the seams. Mayer continued this trend with his first solo script, "Genuine" (1920); both films were directed by Robert Wiene. With his stories for "Shattered" (1921), "Sylvester" (1923), and "The Last Laugh" (1924), Mayer developed a subtler style that came to be known as "kammerspiele" ("chamber drama"). These psychological tales were grounded in minor incidents of ordinary lives, though they still made use of Expressionism in the symbolic significance attached to places and objects. "The Last Laugh" is one of the greatest of silent films and led to a fruitful collaboration between Mayer and director F.W. Murnau. Mayer's most radical idea was to do away with actors altogether and he realized it with director Walther Ruttman's "Berlin - Symphony of a Great City" (1927), a semi-documentary look at 24 hours in the life of the metropolis. In 1927 he accompanied Murnau to Hollywood and wrote the scenario for the Oscar-winning "Sunrise" (1927), in its way the apogee of all that was great in German films. Among screenwriters Mayer was unique in that he wrote more in terms of images rather than plot, making him ideally suited for the silent medium; thus when talkies came in his work suffered considerably. As a Jew and a pacifist he was forced to leave Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933, ultimately settling in London. He never wrote another full screenplay and was employed primarily as an uncredited "script doctor" on such films as "Pygmalion" (1938) and "Major Barbara" (1941). When he died of cancer at 49, he was largely forgotten. Three years later, Siegfried Kracauer published his famous study of German Cinema, "From Caligari to Hitler", which gave Mayer his rightful place among the influential artists of the silent period.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 18 Jul 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3212
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Carl Mayer (20 Nov 1894–1 Jul 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3212, citing Highgate Cemetery (East), Highgate, London Borough of Camden, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .