In one of his few film leading roles, dependable British character actor Holmes Herbert plays Peter Dwight, whose wife Florence (Margaret Livingston), a circus aerialist, walks out on him with their baby in tow. Adopting the guise of an Eastern mystic named Count Merlin, Dwight embarks upon a 15-year search for his wife and child. When he finally catches up with Florence, he discovers that she is planning to desert her present lover. Inevitably, Florence is murdered, and Dwight is accused of the crime. Anyone with half a brain could figure out that one of her cast-off lovers had as much motive as Dwight, yet it takes forever for the truth to be revealed and the killer to be exposed. The Charlatan was based on a play by Ernest Pascal and Leonard Praskins.