Svengali (1932) - John Barrymore DVD
Based on George du Maurier's novel Trilby, which had already spawned a silent film, Svengali (1932) shifts the story's focus from the student Trilby (Marian Marsh) to the , domineering tutor Svengali, played by the great John Barrymore.
Director Archie Mayo gave Barrymore his head (which was adorned with an outlandish beard), resulting in what may be the actor's most bizarre, and probably hammiest, performance. The actor, then 49, helped the 17-year-old Marsh with her performance during rehearsals. In fact, Warner Brothers was afraid that Barrymore would make his co-star another of his conquests.
Anton Grot's art direction and the cinematography of Barney McGill, both nominated for Academy Awards, are as baroque and creepy as Barrymore as the mesmeric maestro. There was also Oscar buzz for Barrymore, but he wasn't nominated. His brother Lionel won for A Free Soul.
The film was hugely successful (a fleeting nude scene didn't hurt). So much that "Svengali" has become a part of our language, describing someone who tries to influence others for their own evil intentions.
John Barrymore, Marian Marsh
Running time : 81 Minutes
Language : English