Synopsis by Janiss Garza
The Parisian settings of George Du Maurier's novel were faithfully recreated for this production -- which is more than can be said for Maurice Tourneur's 1915 version of the film. It was the first American feature for French actress Andree Lafayette, and Arthur Edmund Carewe gives a skillful performance as Svengali (although John Barrymore's performance in the 1931 talkie version is definitive). Trilby (Lafayette) is toiling away in a French laundry when she meets a young English art student. She calls him Little Billee (Creighton Hale), and they have a romance. But she comes under the influence of a musician, Svengali, who has hypnotic powers. On the night of Trilby's engagement to Billee, Svengali steals her away, and with his powers, turns her into a brilliant concert singer. One night Billee and his friends (Philo McCullough and Francis McDonald) see her perform. Svengali has a heart attack and dies, and Trilby loses her beautiful voice. Although she is now free of Svengali's influence, the strain is too much for her and she dies. There were two endings made of this picture -- one was Du Maurier's tragic ending and the other was the typically happy Hollywood finish. An interesting note: the 1915 Maurice Tourneur version starred Clara Kimball Young, who was then married to James Young, the director of the 1923 version. James Young was also in the cast of the Tourneur version.