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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 »
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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:

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

Свенгали See more »

Company Credits

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

Following his successful 1929 expedition to the South Pole, newly-promoted Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd returned to America as a national hero and visited the set of Svengali during its filming. A studio photograph of Byrd, John Barrymore (in costume), and actor George Arliss appeared in The New York Times on February 8, 1931. See more »

Goofs

In the bathtub, Svengali says "Gott strafe England" ("God punish England"). This saying was created by German-Jewish poet Ernst Lissauer (1882-1937) during WWI. However, "Svengali" takes place during the mid 19th century. 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

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

Soundtracks

Misterioso Fantastico
(uncredited)
Music by Giuseppe Becce
See more »

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User Reviews

Engaging production of George du Maurier's famous novel
5 January 1999 | by pooch-8See all my reviews

John Barrymore tackles the delicious role of Svengali, the evil musician who casts a spell over pretty young Trilby, an artist's model (portrayed by Marian Marsh). The chief reason to see Archie Mayo's production is the unique set design by Anton Grot (who, I am speculating, was rather inspired by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). Also of note are the splendid special effects, still impressive even after all these years. All of the hypnosis/possession sequences are remarkable, as great attention is paid to the piercing, penetrating eyes of Svengali as he mesmerizes the hapless ingenue. The weak link here is the lukewarm Bramwell Fletcher, playing Trilby's true love. He registers blandly, and behaves more as the passive mollycoddle than as the proactive hero.


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