Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
SVENGALI (1931). Director: Archie Mayo.
"Trilby in England would be like a butterfly in mutton soup."
The impoverished music instructor Svengali (John Barrymore) meets a young model named Trilby (Marian Marsh) and exerts his influence over her. Svengali has not stood the test of time, now coming off as quite dated and hokey, although the sparse, impressionistic sets with the huge corridors are striking. Barrymore can't seem to make up his mind if he's playing Svengali or Rasputin, and the picture doesn't seem to know if it's serious or a black comedy. In any case, it seems to be over just as it's getting interesting. Bramwell Fletcher and the always reliable Donald Crisp are also in the cast, and Carmel Myers makes an impression as a pupil of Svengali who loves him and makes the ultimate sacrifice.
Verdict: Barrymore should not be measured by this movie. **.