6.8/10
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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.

Director:

Archie Mayo

Writers:

George L. Du Maurier (novel) (as George Louis DuMaurier), J. Grubb Alexander (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

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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
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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

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | Italian | German

Release Date:

22 May 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Trilby See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Vitaphone

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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

Monsieur Taffy: And where are you going?
Billee: After him!
Monsieur Taffy: Svengali's not running away from you.
Billee: Not from me, Taffy, but from his fear of the day when his spell over Trilby will be broken, as it was for a moment last night.
The Laird: Eh? And what will you do when you catch up with him?
Billee: Just wait till the day comes. I'll get her back - - if I have to follow them 'round the world.
See more »

Connections

Featured in 100 Years of Horror: Sorcerers (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Lamento
(uncredited)
Music by Edouard Tremisot
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Svengali (1931) ***
20 February 2010 | by JoeKarlosiSee all my reviews

Svengali (John Barrymore) is an eccentric mystical music teacher/pianist who makes his daily bread giving singing lessons to aspiring students in Paris. His long hair, forked beard, and piercing eyes make the unusual instructor a prime target of ridicule among the local townsfolk. One day a stunning and earthy young model named Trilby (Marian Marsh, perfectly cast and the living picture of the girl you heard about in the song "You're Sixteen") makes her way into the life of Billee (Bramwell Fletcher from the 1932 MUMMY), and wins his devotion. But like all the red-blooded men in this tale, the sly Svengali takes a liking to her himself, and hypnotizes the girl into following him. It's always exciting to discover an old classic from Hollywood's Golden Age that still captivates. SVENGALI is only borderline horror at best, yet it remains a true gem, an absorbing achievement in every way: from the powerful lead performance of Barrymore, to the delicious beauty of 16 year-old Marian Marsh, to the bizarre set designs of Anton Grot, to the wonderful direction by Archie Mayo. This is when movies were movies. *** out of ****


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