Svengali (1931 film)

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Svengali 1931.JPG
Directed by Archie Mayo
Written by J. Grubb Alexander
based on the novel Trilby by George du Maurier
Starring John Barrymore
Marian Marsh
Donald Crisp
Bramwell Fletcher
Carmel Myers
Cinematography Barney McGill
Edited by William Holmes
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • May 22, 1931 (1931-05-22)
Running time
81 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Svengali (1931) is an all-talking pre-code drama/horror film produced and distributed by Warner Brothers. The film stars John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, and Bramwell Fletcher. It was directed by Archie Mayo and the screenplay was written by J. Grubb Alexander. It is based on the gothic horror novel Trilby (1894) by George du Maurier. The film was originally released on May 22, 1931. Warner Brothers was so pleased by the box office on this film that the studio hurriedly reteamed Barrymore and Marsh for another horror film The Mad Genius, released on November 7, 1931. The region 1 DVD of Svengali was released on October 17, 2000 by the Roan Group.


The ending of the novel is changed in this film to a highly dramatic one by having Trilby die after Svengali is stricken with a fatal heart attack, instead of dying of a mysterious illness a few days later. She faints after he collapses in the stage box, but Svengali revives long enough to gasp, "Oh God, grant me in death what you denied me in life—the woman I love". Trilby regains consciousness, smiles happily, utters "Svengali!", then dies, followed by Svengali, who dies smiling. In the film Billee survives.


In CBS's 60s Biography episode on John Barrymore narrated by Mike Wallace, some scenes from Svengali are shown with mood or background music. The music does add effect tremendously to the scenes but it is CBS's own canned archive music and is not in the original feature film.

Marian Marsh may have been chosen as Trilby because she strongly resembled Barrymore's wife Dolores Costello.

Apocalyptica's video for their music Shadowmaker contain scenes from the movie. The lyrics are loosely inspirated by it.

Cast (in credits order)[edit]

Marian Marsh, Bramwell Fletcher & John Barrymore


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Best Art Direction by Anton Grot, and one for Best Cinematography by Barney McGill.[1]


  1. ^ "NY Times: Svengali". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 

External links[edit]