“You are beautiful, my manufactured love.”
A sinister musician (John Barrymore) hypnotizes a model (Marian Marsh) into becoming his wife and a famous opera singer — but her true love (Bramwell Fletcher) refuses to give up hope that she will one day return to him.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Donald Crisp Films
- Horror Films
- John Barrymore Films
- Mind Control and Hypnosis
- Obsessive Love
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that “John Barrymore gave one of his finest screen performances in this unusual adaptation of George du Maurier’s classic novel Trilby” — but I can’t quite agree. While he is indeed “menacing” and “sleazy” (not to mention “in-need-of-a-bath”), Barrymore’s performance, perhaps not surprisingly, far too often borders on hammy. Much more impressive is beautiful Marian Marsh as Trilby, the object of his obsessive desires; from the moment she appears on-screen, Marsh radiates a unique, surprisingly modern energy — making it easy to see why both Svengali and Fletcher’s “Billee” would fall so hard for her. Unfortunately, the “racy” narrative comes across today as dated and largely uninteresting, with occasional bursts of creative energy (i.e., Svengali’s initial hypnosis session with Marsh) adding some much-needed horror and thrills to the proceedings. Anton Grot’s Oscar-nominated, highly expressionistic sets are also noteworthy, though they give the film an undeniably stagy feel. As Peary notes, the “depressing ending” does indeed come as a bit of a surprise.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Marian Marsh as Trilby
- The eerily effective hypnosis scene
- Expressionistic art direction
No, though it’s worth a look simply for its historical value, and to see Marsh’s performance.