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Svengali (1931)

Approved | | Drama, Horror, Romance | 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.



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

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Madame Honori
Luis Alberni ...


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


All Paris desired her, but Svengali owned her! See more »


Drama | Horror | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

22 May 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Trilby  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


[Marian Marsh on co-star Barrymore] He was really rather shy. Sometimes, after he would play a scene, everybody would applaud, and he would back into the wall! Always he was so helpful and so inspiring to me, and when you're with the greatest, you have to try to come up to his level. He knew he was doing that... he did it many times before. See more »


After Billie vows to follow Svengali and regain Trilby's attentions, we see an article in a Naples newspaper titled "Opera News." The second paragraph reads thus: "Monsieur Bonelli states Monsieur Svengali has recoved from his illness." See more »


Svengali: That might be as well to remember. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
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Featured in Going Hollywood: The '30s (1984) See more »


Music by Kurt Lubbe
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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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