The word "svengali" refers to a person who, with evil intent, dominates, manipulates, and controls a creative person such as a singer or an actor for a sinister purpose.
In court, a Svengali defense is a legal tactic that purports the defendant to be a pawn in the scheme of a greater, and more influential, criminal mastermind
Early 20th century: the name of a musician in George du Maurier's novel Trilby (1894), who controls Trilby's stage singing hypnotically.
Svengali (/svɛŋˈɡɑːli/) is a fictional character in George du Maurier's 1895 novel Trilby. Svengali is a stereotyped Jewish man who seduces, dominates and exploits Trilby, a young English girl, and makes her a famous singer.
Svengali was first portrayed by the actor Wilton Lackaye in the United States and by Herbert Beerbohm Tree in London, in the 1895 stage play, Trilby. The general story has also been used for multiple movies. The character was portrayed in the following films, all titled Svengali: by Paul Wegener in the 1927 German silent film; by John Barrymore in 1931; by Donald Wolfit in 1954 (in Technicolor); by Peter O'Toole in a 1983 made-for-television modernized version co-starring Jodie Foster. In the 1983 movie, the names of the characters were changed. Derren Brown performed an Olivier Award–winning live show titled Svengali in 2012.
‘So he's not the Svengali of myth who convinced a generation of kids that fame is a basic human right, regardless of ability?’
‘Crossover soul was the vision of Motown's founder - Svengali Berry Gordy.’
‘Of course, this also contributes to the disposability of idols: they become indistinguishable from one another, and they are rarely talented enough to survive without their Svengalis pulling their strings.’
‘But the Svengali rolled his dice with Lohan's current popularity and lost miserably.’
‘Hypnosis is not a sinister tool for Svengalis but a ‘gentle, effective and empowering therapy’.’
‘Nothing like a one-hit wonder band composed of former members of the ‘Mickey Mouse Club’, organized by a team of music industry Svengalis to spell true love.’
‘The worst of it's that he's only 20 months old and the Svengali who has done this to him is his own grandfather.’
‘Music Svengalis litter the music industry, but there's only one Anthony H Wilson.’
‘Smug, self-satisfied and more than a little bit weird, it's difficult to tell if Gest is indeed well-meaning or some kind of queer Svengali.’
‘That's our axe to grind: to prove that we are our own Svengalis.’
‘Karl Rove, Bush's political Svengali, has told the party that security will be a Republican issue in this year's mid-term elections.’
‘Brandt - in the style of Svengalis throughout the ages - took a vulnerable young man and promised to make him a star.’
‘He adhered to famously beautiful women, as lover or court poet or Svengali, or all three.’
‘Ronnie was well known as my Svengali, but I admitted nothing about his role.’
‘They had better songs but more importantly they covered a broader age range, exhibiting a shrewdness lost on later generations of Svengalis.’
‘Grover grew up in London's East End, where he served time as an armed robber, a hairdresser, a boxer and a self-help Svengali - so he has a hinterland of experiences to draw on.’
‘Eisenhower's ‘Madison Avenue’ consultant, Rosser Reeves, of the agency BBD&O, won renown that year as a campaign Svengali.’
‘Andrew Lloyd Webber was the Svengali who held the musical theatre stage in thrall.’
‘Acting as Svengali, manager and father figure, Tsunku's influence over the group is apparent at every level.’
‘Was Sam Phillips a Svengali, a super salesman, or a shaman?’