Svengali (1931)

79 mins | Drama | 22 May 1931

Director:

Archie Mayo

Cinematographer:

Barney McGill

Editor:

William Holmes

Production Designer:

Anton Grot

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

Barney McGill's photography on this film won him an Academy Award nomination. The first of many films based on the George Du Maurier novel was Trilby and Little Billee made by Biograph in 1896. In 1915, Equitable produced a film entitled Trilby which starred Clara Kimball Young and Wilton Lackaye and was directed by Maurice Tourneur (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.4559). In 1923, First National produced a version starring Arthur Edmund Carew which was directed by James Young (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.5845). In 1955, M-G-M produced Svengali , directed by Noel Langley and starring Hildegarde Neff and Donald ... More Less

Barney McGill's photography on this film won him an Academy Award nomination. The first of many films based on the George Du Maurier novel was Trilby and Little Billee made by Biograph in 1896. In 1915, Equitable produced a film entitled Trilby which starred Clara Kimball Young and Wilton Lackaye and was directed by Maurice Tourneur (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.4559). In 1923, First National produced a version starring Arthur Edmund Carew which was directed by James Young (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.5845). In 1955, M-G-M produced Svengali , directed by Noel Langley and starring Hildegarde Neff and Donald Wolfit. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
18 Feb 31
p. 4.
Film Daily
3 May 31
p. 30.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 30
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
10 Jan 31
p. 14.
Motion Picture Herald
9 May 31
p. 35.
Motion Picture Herald
11 Jul 31
p. 25.
New York Times
1 May 31
p. 30.
Variety
6 May 31
p. 22.
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 May 1931
Production Date:
ended early February 1931
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 April 1931
Copyright Number:
LP2180
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
79
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When attractive but untalented Honori confesses to her sinister singing teacher Svengali that she has left her husband but refused his offer of money, he fixes her with an intense stare that drives her screaming from the room. A short time later her body is found in the Seine. Untouched by her death, Svengali and his flatmate Gecko visit the studio of English artists, The Laird, Taffy, and Billee, in search of a meal. On leaving they meet a lovely young milkmaid and artist's model, Trilby O'Ferrall. Svengali is enchanted by her, but she falls in love with the handsome, young Billee. One day under the pretext of curing her headache, Svengali hypnotises her and thereafter is able to control her by the power of his thoughts. When Billee discovers Trilby posing nude for a group of artists, they quarrel, and Svengali convinces her to fake a suicide and leave Paris with him. Five years later, as Madame Svengali the singer, she has become the toast of Europe with the help of his powers. Her old friends attend her Paris debut and they are astonished to see the woman they thought was dead. Determined to win her back from Svengali, Billee haunts her performances. His powers weakened by the strength of her attachment to Billee, Svengali keeps cancelling performances until finally they are reduced to an engagement in an Egyptian cabaret. When Svengali suffers an attack, his power over Trilby fails, she falters and sings horribly off key. As he dies, he begs to be granted her love in death as he never was in life. As if ... +


When attractive but untalented Honori confesses to her sinister singing teacher Svengali that she has left her husband but refused his offer of money, he fixes her with an intense stare that drives her screaming from the room. A short time later her body is found in the Seine. Untouched by her death, Svengali and his flatmate Gecko visit the studio of English artists, The Laird, Taffy, and Billee, in search of a meal. On leaving they meet a lovely young milkmaid and artist's model, Trilby O'Ferrall. Svengali is enchanted by her, but she falls in love with the handsome, young Billee. One day under the pretext of curing her headache, Svengali hypnotises her and thereafter is able to control her by the power of his thoughts. When Billee discovers Trilby posing nude for a group of artists, they quarrel, and Svengali convinces her to fake a suicide and leave Paris with him. Five years later, as Madame Svengali the singer, she has become the toast of Europe with the help of his powers. Her old friends attend her Paris debut and they are astonished to see the woman they thought was dead. Determined to win her back from Svengali, Billee haunts her performances. His powers weakened by the strength of her attachment to Billee, Svengali keeps cancelling performances until finally they are reduced to an engagement in an Egyptian cabaret. When Svengali suffers an attack, his power over Trilby fails, she falters and sings horribly off key. As he dies, he begs to be granted her love in death as he never was in life. As if in response, she then dies in Billee's arms. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.