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Svengali (1931)

Approved | | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi | 22 May 1931 (USA)
Through hypnotism and telepathic mind control, a sinister music maestro controls the singing voice, but not the heart, of the woman he loves.

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(novel) (as George Louis DuMaurier), (screenplay)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Bramwell Fletcher ...
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Madame Honori
Luis Alberni ...
...
...
Bonelli
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Storyline

Sinister music maestro Svengali can control the actions of women through hypnotism and his telepathic powers. When a pupil he has seduced announces she has left her husband for him, he uses his powers to cause her suicide and promptly forgets her. He meets a beautiful model, Trilby, and becomes infatuated with her, but she, in turn, falls for a young artist called Billee who also loves her. One day Svengali hypnotizes Trilby to cure her headache, but also examines her upper palate and decides it is an ideal cavity for great singing. He convinces her to fake her suicide, so Billee and friends will forget her, and goes on a singing tour with her. Svengali uses his powers to make her sing wonderfully and Madame Svengali, as Trilby is now known, becomes a sensation throughout Europe. But Billee discovers the ruse and begins to follow the pair, upsetting Svengali enough to have him cancel performances too frequently, so they no longer can perform in Europe. They go to Egypt, but Billee ... Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Weirdest romance ever pictured! With the screen's genius and his new find. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

22 May 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Trilby  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Barrymore was one of the first actors to wear contact lenses in movies in "Svengali.". It was one of the earliest versions of hard contacts. They were clumsy and comfortable for the actor but improved his performance. See more »

Goofs

In the opening scene we see a late C19th pianoforte but we hear a modern (1931) concert grand. See more »

Quotes

Svengali: Svengali will go to London himself! Where he will be all alone on a platform. And Princesses. And Countesses. And serene Highnesses will fling him their jewels, and applaud, and invite him to their palaces. And he will take you with him. I never look at them. Ah, we could be so happy. Look at me, in the eyes. Open your eyes.
Trilby O'Farrell: Oh, I do love you!
Svengali: Close your eyes.
Trilby O'Farrell: I love...
Svengali: Ah, don't say it! You are beautiful, my manufactured love. But it is only Svengali talking to himself again.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Going Hollywood: The '30s (1984) See more »

Soundtracks

Méditation Symphonique
(uncredited)
Music by Paul Fauchey
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User Reviews

 
Superb Barrymore-Delightful Marsh
9 March 2005 | by See all my reviews

This is such a great early sound film from the Warner Brothers studio. The sets by Anton Grot are amazing (there is an eye-popping miniature set of the rooftops of Paris). The sentimental background music used in "Svengali" is Thomas Dunn English's "Ben Bolt", which is played effectively throughout the film and is partially sang twice. The great John Barrymore IS the one and only Svengali and is superb in the role. He captures Svengali's wicked humor and cunningness perfectly. Marian Marsh is ideally cast and simply delightful as the artists model Trilby. She even looks like Trilby as drawn in George Du Maurier's novel. She displays an infectious smile and high-spirited jolliness that other actresses who have played Trilby have failed to deliver (Clara Kimball Young was okay in the 1915 silent version ("Trilby"), but Hildagarde Neff and Jodie Foster weren't at all appealing in the later sound remakes). Mostly everyone else in 1931's "Svengali" give good performances (the exception being Carmel Myers, whose acting dates badly). This 1931 version of "Svengali" will always be a film worth seeing for Barrymore's humorous villain, Marsh's adorable heroine and those glorious expressionistic sets by Anton Grot on the early Warner Brothers sound stages.


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