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|Index||25 reviews in total|
The last laugh of any great clown is interesting, if only for its memento mori value. Laurel & Hardy's last film, UTOPIA, is sadly botched but moments of their grand comedy still flair up, like Marc Antony's final bravery in Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra. The grandiose W.C. Fields still holds his own in SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD, even though he was deathly ill with alcohol poisoning. The Marx Brother's LOVE HAPPY is mainly a vehicle for one last pantomime fling for brother Harpo -- and all the more poignant for it. Chaplin's KING IN NEW YORK is a splendid idea -- we chuckle at its conception -- though Chaplin conducts himself like a department store floorwalker more than a comedian. And Harold Lloyd's last movie seems to me to be a nostalgic conspiracy between him and director Sturges, a Last Hurrah to remind movie audiences one last time of the glorious slapstick & pantomime heritage that America was in the process of losing forever as the old clowns faded from the scene and brash lunatics like Martin & Lewis or Bob Hope took over the reins of comedy. Lloyd's film exists in several differently edited versions, but I won't call any of them "butchered", just misunderstood. By the late Forties there weren't any skilled editors around who could quite understand the cadence, the beat, the nearly-balletic timing that a great clown brought to the camera and needed the editor to highlight -- such things as double-takes, long shots of the chase and just stationary shooting when the clown is unfolding a gag. Lloyd produced a novel, a War & Peace, if you will, of vintage gags -- his editors only understood short stories or magazine articles. They grew nervous when the camera lingered on anybody or anything. But great comedy is just that -- lingering. In his final film Lloyd wants to loiter over gags silly and profound. His dawdling is cut short and the truncated comedy that follows seems at times stiff and childish. But before Harold is relegated to the dusty shadows he still pulls off much nonsense that is both genial and brassy -- not a coming attraction, but a dignified retreat back to the Land of Belly Laughs. Anyone grounded in American cinematic comedy feels abit like one of the children in the story of the Pied Piper; we wish we could go with him back into that wonderful, magical, mountain.
Harold Lloyd and Preston Sturges are in the same boat, really. In their
respective times, they were beloved stars. Now, the rank and file don't
really remember them, or if they do remember them it's for a limited
selection of films which don't necessarily reflect their full bodies of
work. For Lloyd, audiences really only know him as the guy who's always
hanging from the clock in the Chuck Workman montages that pop up during
award shows, no concept at all that he was, in his time, far more
than Buster Keaton and on the same level as Chaplin. And for Sturges, only
filmlovers really remember him, even though the best of his films, like
Beach Story and Sullivan's Travels are among the very best of their
Lloyd, of course, was a silent comedy icon. After the depression is career slumped and while he made a series of largely unsuccessful sound films trying to maintain the verve of his silent comedies, audiences simply were not interested. In 1947, though, he attempted another comeback in the film The Sins of Harold Diddlebock. Directed by Preston Sturges, Diddlebock capitalized on Lloyd's past rather than avoiding it. The film took the interesting question "What happened to Harold Lamb (Lloyd's character from The Freshman, his most popular silent film) after the Depression?" In doing so, the film also examined what happened to Lloyd's image.
Diddlebock opens with the final 10 minutes of The Freshman, the triumphant football game. Shifting to sound almost immediately after the final whistle, Lloyd's character goes from youthful exuberance to aged desperation. Following the game, we discover, Harold took a bookkeeping job at an ad agency hoping to move straight to the top. Like his character in Safety Last (the classic where he hangs from that big clock) all he wanted was the chance to pitch his one great idea. But that chance never came and nearly twenty years after he lost his savings in the Crash, Harold loses his job as well. Grey haired, face set in wrinkles, Harold goes into the world with only a small pension. But with the help of a night of drinking, a horse named after his aunt, a look-alike sister played by Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West), and an old boozehound named Worm, he reclaims his comic genius, briefly owns a circus with 37 lions, and, well, perhaps you can see where this late screwball comedy is going. Diddlebock went nearly a million dollars over budget and was reedited and renamed (to Mad Wednesday). It was a disaster.
Looking at the film objectively, many years later, it certainly isn't so bad. The central stylistic conceit is that the silent slapstick of Lloyd's age and the verbal acrobatics that made Sturges famous were not so different at all. Sturges goes so far as to change Lloyd's character's name from "Lamb" to "Diddlebock" to create a slapstick of nomenclature. Diddlebock also proves fairly conclusively that Lloyd's decline was not caused by an inability to handle speaking roles. In this film he keeps up his end of the witty repartee and even harmonizes in a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne." The film also pays homage to Safety Last's human fly scene with a skyscraper chase scene involving Lloyd and a lion. Even at 53, Lloyd was still fit enough to handle the stunts, including swinging upside down from a leash. And yet, for all of its charm, Diddlebock must have seemed out of place. By that point audiences probably didn't remember Lloyd and didn't want to remember the Depression.
The problem is that the film is just a little too clunky and, like the worst of Sturges's writing, relies largely on expositional monologues to justify plot contrivances. Also, the film just doesn't have the zip that Sturges's films had at their peak. Still, it's a pleasant combination of elements, capitalizing on Lloyd's considerable personal appeal, Sturges's talent (even low Sturges is better than, well, most things), and several members of Sturges's stock troupe, including Jimmy Conlin as drunk gambler Wormy. The fact that audiences of the time rejected it shouldn't have any impact on people with unjaded eyes viewing it today.
Look for the 90 minute version, by the way.
I'd give Harold Diddlebock a 7 out of 10. It's worth a look if you're a fan of either Lloyd or Sturges.
"The Sin of Harold Diddlebock" and "Mad Wednesday" are like two twins
who hate each other, so they try to change the way they look. Preston
Sturges talked Harold Lloyd into coming back to movies after he had
retired. Not only that but Lloyd allowed Sturges to use part of his
film "The Freshman" for the opening of the film and to be an investor.
Their agreement was that each had the final cut of the film. Lloyds'
cut is called "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock". Sturges' is called "Mad
Some material is lost on both cuts and some is added. Both are utterly funny with "Mad Wednesday" being a little crazier. Rudy Vallee is almost lost in "Diddlebock" but a major character in "Wednesday". And though both end with Lloyd and Frances Ramsden (The next Mrs. Sturges) in a horse drawn carriage, the last shot of "Wednesday" has the horse singing to the lovers.
If you are interested in how two comic geniuses could shape the same material into two different pictures, then you must see them both. Silly. Funny. Absolutely must sees.
A strange film. Written and directed by the brilliant filmmaker Preston
Sturges, and starring silent film comedian Harold Lloyd (about 20 years
after his prime), this movie tells the story of a college football hero who
settles into a rut as he reaches middle age. Suddenly fired from his
dead-end job, the milquetoasty Mr. Diddlebock uses his severance money to
break out of his rut, embark on a series of adventures over a wild two or
three days alongside a chance acquaintance, the aptly named Wormy (played by
Sturges regular Jimmy Conlin), and pursue the woman of his
Even though this film lacks some of the subtlety, sophistication and polish of some of Preston Sturges' earlier work, it nevertheless (in true Sturges fashion) hides away some pretty heady ideas about growing old, taking chances, and living life to the fullest. this film, a minor entry in the Sturges catalog, would have been the crowning achievement in the career of anyone else. Watch this one, if only to find out what Harold really did on Wednesday!
This film drags in some parts, and Lloyd I think puts off some modern viewers. The first time I watched it I thought it was the film equivalent of seeing Ali vs. Andre the Giant. But Sturges' brilliance is in here, and the degree to which it is derived from Lloyd is paid homage to in a wonderful, dark, surreal way. How can you not love a film that starts with the last moments of Lloyd's The Freshman and then shows the hero turned into a mail room stooge who gets buried by the corporate system? The ending is wonderfully hypnotic, happy? Well as is always the case, the poor down trodden guy figures out how to operate the machine just enough to produce his own deus ex machina. Sturges and Lloyd look more brilliant and visionary than ever from the vantage point of post-Enron, MCI, etc.
An interesting if ultimately unsuccessful combination of two clashing
comedy styles (overseen by humorless mogul Howard Hughes no less), this
film turned out to be Harold Lloyd's swan-song - and, as such, it ended
on a somewhat positive note (even though the film was made during
Sturges' period of decline).
It opens with a reprise of the climactic football game from one of Lloyd's greatest successes, THE FRESHMAN (1925), eventually bringing that same character (albeit renamed!) up to date. Still, in the end, the film is more Sturges than Lloyd: even if the star plays one of his trademark roles of a patsy (though not without the occasional display of ingenuity), there is little of the star's characteristic slapstick here. Instead, the comedy is in Sturges' typical frantic (and, mainly, dialogue-driven) style - with which Lloyd isn't entirely comfortable; the film also features Sturges' stock company of character players in full swing. That said, it's climaxed by yet another of the star comedian's thrilling set-pieces which finds him overhanging from a building-ledge - hampered this time around by a myopic Jimmy Conlin and an understandably disgruntled circus lion!
While a disappointing whole (it was re-issued in 1950 in a shortened version renamed MAD Wednesday), the film does contain a number of undeniable gems: his romantic attachment to every female member of one particular family (all of whom happen to work for the same firm over a 20-year period); his first encounter with Conlin, with the two of them exchanging wise sayings (the optimistic Lloyd had kept a handful nailed to the wall behind him at his former workplace) in order to explain their current dejected state-of-mind; and, best of all, the unforgettable scene in which Lloyd takes his first alcoholic beverage (an impromptu concoction by bartender Edgar Kennedy and which he names "The Diddlebock") that invariably provokes an unexpected yet hilarious reaction.
Calling this film brilliant isn't strong enough. The Dylan lyric "to
laugh and cry in a single sound" fits because at the end of the film if
your heartstrings are not being strummed then you may not be living.
Lloyd is an everyman squashed by life who encounters a bartender and asks for his first drink, ever. The bartender rises to the challenge and... well, Lloyd spends part of the film piecing together what he did after consuming it... I'm telling you, this film is BRILLIANT. The way it's shot, the acting, the brilliant casting, the writing all work together in a way that has no equal in cinema; the silent version of "The Thief of Baghdad" comes to mind for its sense of unbridled fun and its soaring spirit. This is so much more than a comedy, at some point the movie glides past that label and really grabs the brass ring, you know what I mean?
Truly brilliant, highest possible recommendation.
In 1947 Preston Sturges and Harold Lloyd worked together and they came up with The Sin of Harold Diddlebock.It's a sequel for Lloyd's silent film classic The Freshman (1925).After this movie Mr.Lloyd retired from the movie business.In his last picture Harold plays a clerk who's fired from his job after twenty years.He ends up to a bar drinking and the man goes crazy.Also a lion in tow gets in a picture and lots of other funny stuff happens on a way.This movie may not be the best of Harold Lloyd, not even close, but it's mighty entertaining.And because of Harold Lloyd this movie works much better than it would have with some average comedian.Lloyd was far from average.He was Lonesome Luke and he was Glasses, which was the character that made him immortal.Lloyd may steal the show in this movie, but there are other great actors there.I could mention Jimmy Conlin, Raymond Walburn, Rudy Wallee and Edgar Kennedy.I recommend you to watch this film from 60 years back.For the Harold Lloyd fans it's a must.
I've watched movies from every era, of every genre; my favorites are
comedy and SF. In the comedy genre, the only thing I can say about this
movie is an unreserved THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE, ALL-TIME MOST HILARIOUS
MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE.....and I've had fifty-eight years of
life and experience to form that opinion in. I have two recommendations
1: If you need a good, solid emotional pick-me-up, this is the movie to watch (my wife suffers from severe bouts of depression; in the midst of one of her worst bouts, this movie had her on the floor, laughing hysterically)---with one proviso:
2:DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE if you've just had abdominal surgery; it could kill you---literally.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Preston Sturgess's funniest film and also Harold Lloyd's. Includes clip from Lloyd's silent 20's film, "The Freshman" which includes famous clip of slapstick football game which Marx Brothers must have copied. "The Freshman" also must have influenced Adam Sandler's "The Waterboy". Story of a waterboy at football game who gets into the game, saves the day unexpectedly, and then is hired as an accountant at a bank by an an enthusiastic boss who forgets all about him. After having lost his all his money -- in his own bank -- during the Depression, and remaining in the same dead end job for 20 years, he gets fired by his boss who barely remembers him and gives up on marrying the girl of his dreams who works with him. He then has his first drink (his "sin") and it changes his life in wild ways that even call to mind the film, "Run, Lola, Run". Also calls to mind movies satirizing office work like "Haiku Tunnel" and "Office Space." (1999). Side splitting scenes with real circus animals, including one on a skyscraper ledge with an adorable lion.
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