left. cameraman Rudi Mayer, 1929
right. Almásy on the Nile, 1929
Shortly before the beginning of the Second World War, Almásy's book "Unbekannte Sahara" ("Unknown Sahara") managed to arouse the passionate interest of an entire generation of adventure-hungry youths. Shortly thereafter, he participated in Rommel's desert campaign in the pay of the German army. An English agent saved him from the Soviets in the post-war years. Was our hero a supporter of the National Socialists, an unscrupulous adventurer and double agent, or was he merely a follower as so many others were at the time? Is there a grain of truth in this melodramatic Hollywood love story?

who filmed Ferdinand of Liechtenstein's 1929 expedition through East Africa, which was led by Ladislaus Almásy.

Born in Vienna in 1903. Cameraman for the family business, Mayer's Filmaktualitätenbüro, until 1936. The first Austrian company to make newsreels between the world wars, it was founded by Mayer's father, Gustav (1875-1936), who began working for the French company Pathé Fréres in 1908.

The company's first recorded documentary film was "Das Grubenunglück in Hart bei Gloggnitz 1924" ("The Mine Catastrophe in Hart, 1924"); its first documented feature film was "S' Hannerl vom Dreimäderlhaus ("Hannerl of the Three-Girl House", 1923). In 1929, Mayer was hired by Ferdinand of Liechtenstein and László Almásy for an expedition across East Africa.

Together with his younger brother Adi, Rudi Mayer filmed the most important political and social events of the following years. In 1930, Gustav Mayer founded a production company called Tonfilmschau Austria in cooperation with the Selenophon company; the name was changed to "Österreich in Bild und Ton" in 1933.

Rudi Mayer married Rosina Zauninger, the daughter of a movie-theater owner from Lower Austria, in the early 30s. They had two sons. After Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany, he was drafted and became a cameraman for German newsreels. In this position, he traveled to most fronts of the Second World War. After the war's end, he vainly tried to recreate his previous level of success. Mayer specialized in special effects: The flying saucer in "1. April 2000 in Wien" ("April 1, 2000 in Vienna") was his work. He died in 1962 during shooting of a film based on a work by Johann Nestroy.

Born in Bernstein (formerly Borystánko, Hungary) in the Austrian province of Burgenland on August 22nd, 1895.
His father György (1864-1833) was a well-known Explorer.

While at school in Graz, Austria, he constructs a glider at the age of 14 and crashes it, breaking three of his ribs and arousing the anger of his teachers.

1912 First pilot`s license in England.

1915 - 1918 Pilot and flight instructor for the Austro-Hungarian air force; volunteer in the 11th Hussars, Szombathely. His regiment spends the fall and winter of 1915/16 on the Dniestr River east of Horodenka.

1917 King Ferdinand of Bulgaria awards Almásy a medal for bravery in the face of the enemy; flight instructor in Wiener Neustadt, Austria.

1920 - 1926 Private secretary and huntsman for Bishop Mikes in Szombathely, Hungary; agent for the Steyr automobile company, test driver, winner of a number of automobile races.

1921 Drives the former King Charles IV of Hungary from Szombathely to Budapest in the latter's attempt to regain the throne.

November 30th, 1921 - The Burgenland, formerly a part of Hungary, is occupied by Austrian troops in accordance with the Protocol of Venice.

1926 Automobile expedition from Alexandria to Khartoum and southward to the Dinder River and the White Nile. First one-man crossing of the Nubian Desert as a sporting adventure. The expedition lasts two months.

1929 Expedition with two Steyr automobiles from Mombasa to Cairo with Prince Ferdinand of Liechtenstein and the English industrialist Anthony Brunner. Rediscovery of the Darb el Arbe'in (Road of 40 Days). They are the first to cross the Sud (a large swamp) between Mombasa and Khartoum in a motorized vehicle. Rudi Mayer, a cameraman for the first Austrian newsreel production company, documents this expedition in the film "Durch Afrika im Automobil" ("Through Africa in an Automobile").

1932 English explorer P. A. Clayton, Wing Commander Hubert S. Penderel and Sir Robert Clayton East participate in a combined expedition with trucks and a plane (a De Havilland Moth) for the purpose of surveying Gilf Kebir; a short expedition to pick up water in Kufra is made through unexplored desert.

1933 Return to Gilf Kebir in search of the lost oasis Zarzura (with Wing Commander Penderel; Dr. Lászlo Kádár, a young assistant at the Geographical Institute of the University of Budapest; Richard Bermann, travel writer; Hans Casparius, photographer; drivers Sabr and Abdu; and cook Mahmud); discovery of prehistoric cave paintings with swimming figures, the Cave of the Swimmers!

1935 Expedition with Joachim von der Esch the German desert explorer through the Great Sand Sea of Abu Ballas to Siwa. Search for the legendary army of Cambyses, a Persian king.

1936Almásy receives pilot's license number 1 of the Egyptian pilot's club and founds the country's first glider school.

1936 - 39 Flight instructor in Almaza, Cairo.

1937 First flight of a glider over the pyramids.

1940 - 1943 Reserve officer in Hungary's air force; receives orders to join Rommel's Afrikakorps.

April-June 1942 - Operation Salam: Two German agents are smuggled over a distance of 2000 km and behind English lines; the group passes through stretches of desert known only to Almásy.

1943 Almásy's young lover Hans dies in North Africa.

1945 Occupation of Bernstein by Soviet troops; Almásy is arrested.

1946 Almásy is acquitted and a ransom is paid for his release.

1948 Return to Egypt with the help of British intelligence.

1949 World record flight of a glider under tow from Paris to Cairo via Rome and Tripoli. The glider-pilot is the Egyptian Hassan Said Kamel.

March 11th, 1951 Named Director of the Cairo Desert Institute.

March 22nd, 1951 Dies of dysentery in Salzburg.

© 2001 epo-film, kurt mayer film