6.9/10
1,464
41 user 19 critic

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.

Director:

Archie Mayo

Writers:

George L. Du Maurier (novel) (as George Louis DuMaurier), J. Grubb Alexander (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews

Watch Now

With Prime Video

WATCH NOW
ON DISC
Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Drama | Horror | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A crippled man finds a boy and vows to make him a great dancer.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Charles Butterworth
Certificate: Passed Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A prince plots to kill the mad monk Rasputin for the good of the czar, the czarina and Russia.

Directors: Richard Boleslawski, Charles Brabin
Stars: John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore
Adventure | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

François Villon, in his lifetime the most renowned poet in France, is also a prankster, an occasional criminal, and an ardent patriot.

Director: Alan Crosland
Stars: John Barrymore, Conrad Veidt, Marceline Day
Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Dr. Henry Jekyll experiments with scientific means of revealing the hidden, dark side of man and releases a murderer from within himself.

Director: John S. Robertson
Stars: John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Brandon Hurst
Arsène Lupin (1932)
Crime | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A detective is tasked to capture an elusive thief called Arsene Lupin.

Director: Jack Conway
Stars: John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Karen Morley
Topaze I (1933)
Drama | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

An honest and naive schoolteacher gets a lesson in how the world works outside the classroom, when a rich Baron and his mistress use the teacher's name and outstanding reputation in a ... See full summary »

Director: Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast
Stars: John Barrymore, Myrna Loy, Reginald Mason
Certificate: Passed Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Successful attorney has his Jewish heritage and poverty-stricken background brought home to him when he learns his wife has been unfaithful.

Director: William Wyler
Stars: John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Doris Kenyon
Tempest (1928)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

In Czarist Russia, a peasant officer, resented by the aristocrats, falls in love with a princess.

Directors: Sam Taylor, Lewis Milestone, and 1 more credit »
Stars: John Barrymore, Camilla Horn, Louis Wolheim
Don Juan (1926)
Certificate: Passed Adventure | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

In 16th Century Italy, devil-may-care playboy Don Juan runs afoul of the despotic Borgias.

Director: Alan Crosland
Stars: Jane Winton, John Roche, Warner Oland
Certificate: Passed Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A man, Hilary Fairfield returns home after fifteen years in a mental asylum. However, he finds things are not the way they were when he left.

Director: George Cukor
Stars: John Barrymore, Katharine Hepburn, Billie Burke
Beau Brummel (1924)
Drama | History | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

George Bryan Brummel, a British military officer, loves Lady Margery, the betrothed of Lord Alvanley. Despite her own desperate love for Brummel, she submits to family pressure and marries ... See full summary »

Director: Harry Beaumont
Stars: John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Willard Louis
Night Flight (1933)
Certificate: Passed Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Polio breaks out in Rio de Janeiro, the serum is in Santiago and there's only one way to get the medicine where it's desperately needed: flown in by daring pilots who risk the treacherous weather and forbidding peaks of the Andes.

Director: Clarence Brown
Stars: John Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
John Barrymore ... Svengali
Marian Marsh ... Trilby O'Farrell
Donald Crisp ... The Laird
Bramwell Fletcher ... Billee
Carmel Myers ... Madame Honori
Luis Alberni ... Gecko
Lumsden Hare ... Monsieur Taffy
Paul Porcasi ... Bonelli
Edit

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

Taglines:

He hypnotizes! He thrills...! Any woman caught in his spell must obey. See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | Italian | German

Release Date:

22 May 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Свенгали See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Vitaphone

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

In Svengali, John Barrymore became one of the first actors to wear contact lenses in motion pictures. The lenses were one of the earliest versions of hard contacts. Although clumsy and uncomfortable to wear, the lenses added a supernatural element to 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: That might be as well to remember. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
See more »

Connections

Version of Svengali (1954) See more »

Soundtracks

Chant d'Amour
(uncredited)
Music by Sam Perry
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
"Himmell!! That Throat!!!"
9 October 2006 | by theowinthropSee all my reviews

Historic note of interest: In the early 19th Century, there was a scandal involving the British General-in-Chief of the Armies (then fighting Napoleon) where his mistress was found to have been selling commissions to wealthy, but undeserving men, for high private fees. The General-in-Chief resigned in 1809 as a result of this scandal. He was Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, second oldest (and favorite) son of King George III. The mistress, Mary Anne Clarke, faced some legal problems, but triumphed over most of them (she actually had public opinion on her side). Ms Clarke would marry and have a family. Her grandson was George Du Maurier (more of later); Her great-grandson was Gerald Du Maurier, the leading stage actor of the first half of the 20th Century; Her great-great-granddaughter was Daphne Du Maurier, novelist (REBECCA, JAMAICA INN, FRENCHMAN'S CREEK, MY COUSIN RACHEL, THE SCAPEGOAT), and great-great-grandma's sympathetic biographer (MARY ANNE). By the way, while Ms Clarke had quite a noteworthy progeny, the Duke of York never had any legitimate children, or illegitimate ones of note.

But SVENGALI is not Daphne's book. It is the chief novel of her grandfather George. By the way, the title of the novel is not SVENGALI, but TRILBY. Trilby O'Farrell is the heroine of the story, and Svengali is the villain ("Little Billee" is the hero). But in Svengali George Du Maurier created one of the most memorable villain figures in the 1880 and 1890s, with Bram Stoker's Count Dracula and Conan Doyle's Professor James Moriarty, Anthony Hope's Rupert of Hentzau and Robert Louis Stevenson's Henry Jeckyll/Edward Hyde.

Unfortunately there is an element in Svengali that is played down somewhat (but his appearance - based on the novel's illustrations by Du Maurier (who was a successful cartoonist) emphasize without subtlety). Svengali is Jewish - and a real villain in the story. He is first seen as a hanger-on, and one who sneers at the attempts by Little Billee, Taffy, and the Laird to be artists. That is because he has his own powers, but he is looking for the right person to use them on. He finds that person in Trilby, a beautiful young girl, quite innocent, who works as a model. One day he examines Trilby's throat somewhat bemusedly and discovers that it is perfectly formed for singing (hence the comment I put in the "Summary Box").

Up to that time she is falling for Billee, but soon Svengali is giving her all kinds of singing lessons. Billee and his friends note this with apprehension (they barely can tolerate Svengali). Then she becomes increasingly distant and cold to them, especially Billee. Soon she leaves with Svengali. Billee suffers a collapse as a result.

Billee recovers and in a few years learns that Trilby is the leading concert singer in Europe. But wherever she goes it is always with her impresario/husband Svengali. He "keeps an eye" on her and her activities. Billee can't stand this, especially after an accidental meeting with her leads to a feeling she doesn't even know who he is. He starts pursuing them, and finally drives to the fatal conclusion (which is quite different in the novel, but similar).

I doubt if hypnotism really could do what Du Maurier suggested Svengali could do to Trilby. But this film certainly suggests it can. John Barrymore's Svengali was the closest role (in his sound films; he had played Dr. Jeckyll in a silent film) to a horror part, but he manages to make the impresario/hypnotist/musician a sad and compelling figure: the tragedy for Barrymore's Svengali is his success - he knows he controls Trilby (Marian Marsh), but that knowledge also brings doubt that she could ever love him or give herself to him on her own free will. It is a damning situation, and he does not know the answer until the last moment of the film. Svengali would be a hallmark role for Barrymore - he is a reference point in the role of Oscar Jaffe in the comedy TWENTIETH CENTURY, and a slightly watered down version is his unhappy impresario/husband to Jeanette MacDonald in MAYTIME.


14 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 41 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Comedy Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular comedy titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed