Sir Donald Wolfit was one of the leading Shakespearean actors of his day and it is a matter of great regret that he was never asked to film any of his major interpretations, especially that of King Lear.
It is a matter of good fortune that Wolfit appears in the lead role of this film as the part was originally to be played by Robert Newton. The screenplay is based on the once-popular novel "Trilby" by George du Maurier which concerns a young artist's model (the Trilby of the title) who, although practically tone-deaf, is transformed into a great operatic star by the hypnotic powers possessed by the sinister Svengali.
It is no surprise that the film's title bears the name of the evil genius Svengali, rather than duMaurier's original title, as the charismatic Wolfit gives a performance of prime "ham" which proves itself a cynosure at the expense of all the other actors in the film...such, apparently, was his way in the theatre!
The background score is by master film composer, William Alwyn, and Hildegard Knef's singing voice in the operatic scenes, when Trilby is under Svengali's influence, was dubbed by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
All in all this is a hugely enjoyable piece of vintage melodrama and a valuable memento of one of this country's most notable actors.