49 user 30 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.


Archie Mayo


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




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


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


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


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


John Barrymore's nickname for teenage actress Marian Marsh was "Maid Marian." See more »


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


Billee: You're wonderful. You're the sweetest thing I've ever known. When we're married, I want to take you to England, and to my mother... She'll be proud of you, Trilby. Proud of you as I am.
Trilby O'Farrell: Tell me: what's England like?
Billee: Oh, England's beautiful! Green fields, and hedgerows and hollyhocks, primroses...
Svengali: [Svengali, who's been eavesdropping, butts in] ... and fog, and pneumonia, and shopkeepers, and flat feet, and boiled beef and cabbage - ha, ha, ha! Trilby in England would be like a butterfly in mutton ...
See more »


Version of BBC Play of the Month: Trilby (1976) See more »


Music by Kurt Lubbe
See more »

User Reviews

Exceptional classic film
13 August 2005 | by km_dicksonSee all my reviews

An exceptional classic film. In a storyline very similar to Dracula, the strange Maestro Svengali (John Barrymore) falls in love with a young girl (Marian Marsh) and uses his powers of hypnotism and mind control to seduce her. Erie, eye catching, strangely romantic and a little twisted, Svengali was everything Dracula should have been. The film is a masterpiece of visuals. The slanted, disproportionate sets and imaginative camera work give many scenes a dreamlike feel. John Barrymore is perfect as the title character. He does not play Svengali as a flatly evil man, but gives him charm, humor and vulnerability. He causes us to pity him for his unrequited love almost more than we fear him for his actions. The talent of the supporting cast does not go to waste either. Marian Marsh gives a good performance as Trilby, the object of Svengali's desire, and Donald Crisp and Luis Alberni provide some comic relief as a couple of struggling artists. Complete with a dark, somewhat open ending, this movie has all the right touches. Svengali is better and more effective than a horror movie without quite being one itself.

36 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 49 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.





English | French | Italian | German

Release Date:

22 May 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Svengali See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed