Wednesday, November 15, 2006

MARIAN MARSH 1913-2006.
I was very sad to hear the news that Marian Marsh, who will forever be known to cinema buffs as Trilby, died November 9th. Marian Marsh appeared in the first sound horror film after 1931's Dracula: Svengali starring John Barrymore. Seen here as she appeared in the film, Marian Marsh was only a youngster and was mentored by the "Great Profile" John Barrymore. Shockingly, the neophyte actress not only held her own with the distinguished Broadway and film star, but she also managed to turn in a magnificent performance in her own right. Marsh as Trilby is vivacious, flirtatious, impish and full of life at the beginning of the film but, as the evil mesmerist Svengali takes control of her mind, Trilby begins to become sullen and literally wastes away. The effort to keep Trilby under a constant state of hypnosis also causes Svengali himself to waste away. One fantastic scene (in pre-Code Hollywood) has Svengali exert his hypnotic influence to cause Trilby to suddenly fall in love with him; the lust in Marsh's eyes as she reaches for Svengali is an amazing performance. Svengali then lets his hypnotic influence fade and Trilby falls back into unconsciousness. "Ah no," sighs the mesmerist, "It is only Svengali talking to himself again." The evil Maestro realized he cannot REALLY have Trilby and his heart is broken. Brilliant. The film was justly nominated for 2 Oscars and remains one of the finest of 1930's horror films. Sadly, Marian Marsh's sudden stardom didn't last since her career simply couldn't compete with her own performance as Trilby. Her star quickly faded and she retired from acting. However, she did make a few notable horror genre appearances including a re-teaming with John Barrymore in "The Mad Genius" as well as co-starring with Boris Karloff in "The Black Room". Marian also played Sonya in Peter Lorre's acclaimed film version of "Crime and Punishment". Another personal favourite of mine is the 1940's poverty row old dark house chiller called "Murder By Invitation" which found Marian Marsh towards the end of her career but still wonderful alongside a host of well-beloved horror genre character actors including Wallace "The Mummy's Hand" Ford, Gavin "Bride of Frankenstein"Gordon, Minerva "The Devil Doll" Urecal and others. The actress retired from filmmaking in the 40's but returned one final time in 1957 to appear in a one-episode television pilot before retiring for good. Marian Marsh's career blazed like a comet over 1930's Hollywood and then rapidly faded to black. However, those of us who love movies as well as those of us who love horror will always remember Marian Marsh as the incandescent artist's model Trilby who fell under the claw of the evil Svengali and entered into cinema history.

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