Trilby (1923 film)

Trilby is a 1923 American silent drama film directed by James Young and starring Andrée Lafayette, Creighton Hale, and Arthur Edmund Carewe.[1] It is an adaptation of the 1894 novel Trilby by George Du Maurier about a young woman named Trilby who falls under the power of the domineering mesmerist Svengali.

Lobby card
Directed byJames Young
Produced byRichard Walton Tully
Written byRichard Walton Tully
Based onTrilby
by George Du Maurier
StarringAndrée Lafayette
Creighton Hale
Arthur Edmund Carewe
CinematographyGeorges Benoît
Richard Walton Tully Productions
Distributed byFirst National Pictures
Release date
  • July 29, 1923 (1923-07-29)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)


A beautiful young model named Trilby falls in love with a young man named Little Billee when they meet in a laundry. A vile mesmerist named Svengali also encounters the girl and becomes obsessed over her. After Little Billee proposes marriage to Trilby, Svengali kidnaps her and uses his hypnotic powers to mesmerize her. He finds that although he can erase her will and make her do anything, he cannot make her love him. Svengali uses his powers to turn Trilby into a talented singer, and tours the capitals of Europe with her as her manager. Svengali dies from a heart attack, and Trilby immediately loses her ability to sing and dies as well shortly thereafter.



French actress Andree Lafayette traveled to Hollywood to make this film (her first major role), then after making a picture in Canada soon after, returned to France where she more or less retired in the mid-1930s. "Trilby" was filmed earlier in 1915, directed by Maurice Tourneur, but the 1923 version is considered superior by critics. Variety called Andree Lafayette "the ideal Trilby in face and figure". Interestingly, James Young (director of the 1923 version) had a small role in Tourneur's 1915 production, as it starred his wife Clara Kimball Young in the lead role of Trilby.[2]

Arthur Edmond Carewe had a very successful career as an actor until he died in 1937, appearing in several horror classics as The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and Mystery in the Wax Museum (1933). Creighton Hale also went on to appear in several silent horror classics as well, including The Cat and the Canary (1927) and Seven Footprints to Satan (1929).

Director Young shot two different endings for the film, one following the novel in which Trilby dies, and one in which she lives (as in the revamped 1915 version by Maurice Tourneur). At the last minute, the producers opted for the version in which she dies, because "that ending was so familiar to movie audiences at the time".[2]

The film was remade as Svengali in Germany in 1927, which starred Paul Wegener in the title role[3]. The first sound film version of Trilby was made in the United States in 1931 (also retitled Svengali), considered by critics to be "the definitive adaptation" today.[2]


  1. Munden p. 830.
  2. Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 270. ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  3. Svengali (1927) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies.


  • Munden, Kenneth White. The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States, Part 1. University of California Press, 1997.
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