Svengali (1954 film)

Svengali is a 1954 British drama film directed by Noel Langley and starring Hildegard Knef, Donald Wolfit and Terence Morgan.[1] A svengali hypnotises an artist's model into becoming a great opera singer, but she struggles to escape from his powers. It was based on the novel Trilby by George Du Maurier.

Directed byNoel Langley
Produced byGeorge Minter
Screenplay byNoel Langley
Based onTrilby
by George Du Maurier
StarringHildegard Knef
Donald Wolfit
Terence Morgan
Music byWilliam Alwyn
CinematographyWilkie Cooper
Edited byJohn Pomeroy
George Minter Productions
Distributed byRenown Pictures Corporation (UK)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (US)
Release date
  • December 1954 (1954-12)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Donald Wolfit was a last-minute replacement for actor Robert Newton, who left three weeks into filming and can still be seen in some long shots. [2][3]

Amongst the end credits is the acknowledgement: "The producer expresses his grateful appreciation for the magnificent singing voice of Madame Elizabeth Schwarzkopf."[2]


Critical reception

Under the heading, "Sixth Filming of Novel Fails to Hypnotize", The New York Times critic described the film as "a stylized curio that seems out of place in the atomic old-fashioned as side whiskers and bustles".[4]

DVD Talk, comparing it to the 1931 John Barrymore version posited that "the 1954 British film fleshes out the characters of Trilby and Billy considerably and adds a lot of color and subtlety, but the results suggest that a more flamboyant approach might have worked better than the lush but tame version that resulted. The Eastmancolor production aims for an evocative atmosphere akin to John Huston's gorgeous Moulin Rouge (1952), photographed in Technicolor by Oswald Morris. Svengali was made on a fraction of that film's budget, though does look handsome for what it is."[3]


  1. "Svengali (1954)". BFI. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  2. "Svengali (1955) - Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  3. "Svengali". DVD Talk. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  4. "Movie Review - Svengali - Dated 'Svengali'; Sixth Filming of Novel Fails to Hypnotize". Retrieved 3 June 2016.
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