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
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
Marian Marsh, Bramwell Fletcher & John Barrymore

Svengali is a 1931 American Pre-Code drama/horror film produced and distributed by Warner Bros. The film stars John Barrymore and co-stars Marian Marsh. 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.


Awards and honors[edit]

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]


The film survives complete. It was transferred onto 16mm film by Associated Artists Productions[2] in the 1950s and shown on television. This film and The Kennel Murder Case were the two Warner Brothers films that not lapsed into Public Domain. But only have been available freely for decades.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In CBS's Biography episode on John Barrymore in the 1960s, narrated by Mike Wallace, some footage from Svengali are shown with mood or background music. The music is CBS's own canned archive music and is not in the original feature film.[3]
  • Apocalyptica's video for "Shadowmaker" contain scenes from the movie.


  1. ^ "NY Times: Svengali". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  2. ^ 1957 MOVIES FROM AAP Warner Bros Features & Cartoons SALES BOOK DIRECTED AT TV
  3. ^ Biography episode "John Barrymore", premiere 1962 CBS Television; later appearances on A&E Cable 1980s-90s

External links[edit]