Based on the bluebeard Landru, a former bank clerk marries women and then murders them for their money in order to support his invalid wife and son; but after he loses them and his money, he gives up.
The Couvais family learns that Thelma withdrew her money from the bank after being married for two weeks. Henry Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin) has been burning an incinerator for two days, and he counts the money he got from his wife. The Couvais family reports Thelma missing, and police say that twelve women have disappeared. Verdoux shows his house for sale to the widow Marie Grosnay (Isobel Elsom), flatters her, and chases her. Verdoux learns he needs 50,000 francs to cover his stock purchases, or he is ruined. So he calls on Lydia Floray (Margaret Hoffman) and tells her of a financial crisis, urging her to get her money from the bank. Lydia regrets taking her money home. In the morning Verdoux counts the money.
Verdoux goes home to his son Peter and his wife Mona, who is in a wheelchair. She observes that since he lost his job at the bank three years ago, he has been under a strain. Verdoux sees Marie on the street. He discusses poisons with a chemist. In Paris he mixes poison with wine. He says one could try out a poison on a homeless person.
Verdoux meets a girl (Marilyn Nash) in the rain and escorts her home. He learns that she just got out of prison but decides not to poison her. Later she sees him in town.
Verdoux calls on Annabella Bonheur (Martha Raye) and brings poisoned wine. However, her maid Annette (Ada May) breaks the bottle and replaces it. Annabella drinks wine, and Verdoux panics when he tries some by mistake. Annette's hair falls out, and Verdoux has his stomach pumped. Verdoux takes Annabella out in a rowboat, and they fish. He puts a rope around her neck, but they hear yodelers. He falls in the water.
Marie gets flowers from Verdoux and sends him her phone number. He calls and aggressively pursues her. At their wedding Verdoux bumps into Annabella and hides from her. Finally he runs away. Police suspect him.
Stocks crash, and banks fail. Verdoux learns that they are foreclosing, and he is broke. The girl picks up Verdoux in her car, and she says that she met a munitions manufacturer. Verdoux says he lost his wife and child, but now he has awakened from a nightmare. The Couvais family sees Verdoux and alerts the police. Verdoux is followed by them, and he goes outside with the girl. He says goodbye to her and accepts his destiny by going back in with the police to be arrested.
Verdoux is tried and convicted. He says that the world is involved in mass killing. In his cell Verdoux tells a reporter that crime is business. A priest visits him, and he drinks rum. In the final scene he walks to the guillotine.
In this black comedy Chaplin suggests that the economic
circumstances of ruthless business drove an unemployed man to
serial murders and implies that the mass murder of war is far