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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

[Marian Marsh on co-star John 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 »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Svengali: [as he is on the verge of death] Oh, God, grant me in death... what you denied me in life... the woman I love.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Going Hollywood: The '30s (1984) See more »

Soundtracks

Patetica
(uncredited)
Music by Vladimir Dyck
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Barrymore as Svengali
23 March 2010 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Wow. Creating opera singers in Paris was at one point, apparently, all the rage in literature - we have Christine Daae coached by the Phantom of the Opera and here, we have Trilby becoming an opera star under the tutelage of the great Svengali. This 1931 film stars John Barrymore in the title role, Marian Marsh as Trilby, along with Bramwell Fletcher as Billee, Trilby's boyfriend, and Donald Crisp.

The poor, unkempt, dirty Svengali becomes obsessed with the artist's model Trilby. He hypnotizes her and takes over her mind. Though her boyfriend (Bram Fletcher) and the artists believe her dead, five years later, Svengali, now prosperous and clean, appears in concert with his wife, the phenomenal Mme. Svengali, the great opera star. After performing "The Mad Scene from Lucia," she leaves the theater, and her friends recognize her. Just one small problem - Svengali has a weak heart, and he is more and more losing control over her. And now that Billee has seen her, he keeps showing up.

This is a classic film, thanks to the performance of Barrymore and the great sets, which, as many people have mentioned, were inspired by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Barrymore brings great humor and a vulnerability to an overtly scary role, and Marsh is adorable. Seventeen years old here, she retired at the age of 30, except for some TV appearances, and died at the age of 93. Blond Bramwell Fletcher, who often appeared on stage throughout his career, is Trilby's love interest. Eleven years after this film was made, he married Barrymore's daughter Diana.

Had this film been made a few years later, it might have been a touch better. The actors and studio were still getting used to the sound process, so the rhythm of the dialogue is a little off. Nonetheless, this is an excellent film, and I'll take any opportunity I can to see the great Barrymore.


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