SVENGALI is a remake of the silent TRILBY, which starred Wilton Lackaye as Svengali and Clara Kimball Young as Trilby. Lackaye had also starred in the stage play, drawn from du Maurier's novel. The emphasis is changed here to give Barrymore the lion's share of the picture and make the
man who manipulated the woman the star. Marsh is a beautiful blonde who has lived with several artists and currently earns her living as an artist's model. Barrymore is a music teacher with the ability to hypnotize. He's seen early as Myers' teacher (she shows that she has a good voice, and it was
really hers) and then falling for Marsh. Marsh would like to quit taking off her clothes for a living and settle down with Fletcher, a wealthy Englishman who is infatuated with her, but she knows that his upper-crust family will not approve of any alliance. Barrymore gets to Marsh and begins
working on her voice. She starts singing, giving concerts, and achieves some notable success as he pulls her strings and makes her do everything he wants. When he does his hypnotic shtick, Barrymore's eyes are obliterated and substituted by gaping white holes that mesmerize the young woman. The
relationship deepens and Marsh is unable to perform unless Barrymore is there. In the end, both Barrymore and Marsh die, leaving only Fletcher on screen.
It's not quite a love story, not a great tragedy, not a comedy. Matter of fact, it's difficult to figure out what it is. Barrymore postures, gesticulates, and leaves molar marks all over the excellent sets. The following year, Barrymore did a similar role in THE MAD GENIUS. The only parts of the
picture worth citing are the makeup and McGill's excellent cinematography, which was nominated for an Oscar. The film also earned a nomination for Best Interior Decoration.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: SVENGALI is a remake of the silent TRILBY, which starred Wilton Lackaye as Svengali and Clara Kimball Young as Trilby. Lackaye had also starred in the stage play, drawn from du Maurier's novel. The emphasis is changed here to give Barrymore the lion's shar… (more)