Carl Mayer, co-author with Janowitz of CALIGARI, was born in the Austrian provincial capital of Graz, where his father, a wealthy  businessman, would have prospered had he not been obsessed by the idea of becoming a “scientific” gambler. In the prime of life he sold his property, went, armed with an infallible “system,” to Monte Carlo, and reappeared a few months later in Graz, broke. Under the stress of this catastrophe, the monomaniac father turned the sixteen-year-old Carl and his three younger brothers out into the street and finally committed suicide.
A mere boy, Carl Mayer was responsible for the three children. While he toured through Austria, peddling barometers, singing in choirs and playing extras in peasant theaters, he became increasingly interested in the stage. There was no branch of theatrical production which he did not explore during those years of nomadic life — years full of experiences that were to be of immense use in his future career as a film poet.
At the beginning of the war, the adolescent made his living by sketching Hindenburg portraits on postcards in Munich cafes. Later in the war, Janowitz reports, he had to undergo repeated examinations of his mental condition. Mayer seems to have been very embittered against the high-ranking military psychiatrist in charge of his case.
The war was over. Janowitz, who from its outbreak had been an officer in an infantry regiment, returned as a convinced pacifist, animated by hatred of an authority which had sent millions of men to death. He felt that absolute authority was bad in itself. He settled in Berlin, met Carl Mayer there, and soon found out that this eccentric young man, who had never before written a line, shared his revolutionary moods and views. Why not express them on the screen? Intoxicated with Wegener’s films, Janowitz believed that this new medium might lend itself to powerful poetic revelations.