A woman goes to a sideshow fortune-teller to have her fortune told, and is astonished when the man looks into his crystal ball and goes into great detail about events in her past that few ... See full summary »



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Cast overview:
Holmes Herbert ...
Florence Talbot
Rockliffe Fellowes ...
Richard Talbot (as Rockcliffe Fellowes)
Philo McCullough ...
Dr. Walter Paynter
Anita Garvin ...
Mrs. Paynter
District Attorney Frank Deering (as Craufurd Kent)
Mrs. Deering
Fred MacKaye ...
Jerry Starke
Dorothy Gould ...
Ann Talbot


A woman goes to a sideshow fortune-teller to have her fortune told, and is astonished when the man looks into his crystal ball and goes into great detail about events in her past that few people ever knew about. Shaken, she leaves and later tells her girlfriend about the incident. The girlfriend insists that she invite the fortune-teller to a party they're having at her house. What the woman doesn't realize is that the "fortune-teller" is actually the ex-husband she abandoned years ago, when she took their daughter and ran off with her lover. When the "charlatan" is invited to the party, he sees an opportunity to take his revenge on his faithless ex-wife. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

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Plot Keywords:

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Release Date:

14 April 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Arte Diabólica  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(MovieTone) (talking sequences)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


A Jewel Production. Lacking a theater network, Universal devised a 3-tiered branding system to market their product to independent operators: Red Feather (low budget programmers), Bluebird (mainstream releases) and Jewel (prestige releases designed to command higher roadshow ticket prices). This branding system faded away by late 1929. See more »

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User Reviews

A Magic Show Murder Mystery
12 October 2007 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Holmes Herbert (as Peter Dwight) is a magician, and quick-change master-of-disguise; he has assumed the role of Count Merlin, a "Master of Occult Services". Margaret Livingston (as Florence Dwight Talbot) is his ex-wife, who, fifteen years earlier, took their baby daughter and hooked up second husband Rockliffe Fellowes (as Richard "Dick" Talbot). Ms. Livingston isn't one to stand by her men, and has already decided to run away with her doctor, Philo McCullough (as Walter Paynter). She goes to Mr. Herbert for a crystal ball reading, unaware he is her ex-husband…

You should know, initially, that the "crystal ball story", early in the film, is the story of how Livingston took her daughter and left Herbert for Fellowes. It really isn't at all clear (as either a bell, or a crystal ball). It's also astonishing how Livingston sits right down with Herbert for a dead-on perfect "reading" of their past, and doesn't know who he is, under the turban. She later says, "What a fool I was not to have recognized you!" Indeed.

Later, events are easier to understand. Circumstances lead to all the characters being in a house, during a storm. A murder is committed, and you're left wondering - who's the guilty party? While there is some suspense, there are no real clues (that I could see); so you'll have to take a shot in the dark on this one. Herbert's is the film's main performance attraction; he certainly is a master of disguise!

***** The Charlatan (1929) George Melford ~ Holmes Herbert, Margaret Livingston, Philo McCullough

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