6.5/10
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The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)

Approved | | Comedy | 4 April 1947 (USA)
Twenty years after his triumphs as a freshman on the football field, Harold is a mild-mannered clerk who dreams about marrying the girl at the desk down the aisle. But losing his job ... See full summary »

Director:

Preston Sturges

Writer:

Preston Sturges (original screenplay)
Reviews
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Harold Lloyd ... Harold Diddlebock
Jimmy Conlin ... Wormy
Raymond Walburn ... E.J. Waggleberry
Rudy Vallee ... Lynn Sargent
Edgar Kennedy ... Jake the Bartender
Arline Judge ... Manicurist
Franklin Pangborn ... Formfit Franklin
Lionel Stander ... Max
Margaret Hamilton ... Flora
Jack Norton ... James R. Smoke
Robert Dudley ... Robert McDuffy
Arthur Hoyt ... J.P. Blackstone
Julius Tannen ... Nearsighted Banker
Al Bridge ... Wild Bill Hickock
Robert Greig ... Algernon McNiff
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Storyline

Twenty years after his triumphs as a freshman on the football field, Harold is a mild-mannered clerk who dreams about marrying the girl at the desk down the aisle. But losing his job destroys that dream, and when he finds a particularly potent drink at his local bar, he goes on a very strange and funny rampage (with a lion in tow). Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Mad Wednesday!! Written and Directed by the one and only Preston Sturges who gave you "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek", "The Great McGinty", and other smash hits! (1950 reissue poster). See more »

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Preston Sturges wrote this screenplay in order to entice Harold Lloyd out of retirement. See more »

Goofs

At the end of a football game Harold is under a pile of players. When they get up he has it over the line and has the white chalk line over his mouth and round his cheeks but the marks have disappeared when he's carried shoulder high off the field. See more »

Quotes

Robert McDuffy: I don't want to be popular. I don't like nobody and nobody likes me. If it's all right with them, it's all right with me.
Wormy: Here, have a drink.
Robert McDuffy: Certainly. That's the one thing I do like.
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Crazy Credits

"... and for the first time a young girl called Frances Ramsden playing the youngest Miss Otis" See more »

Alternate Versions

Originally released at 90 minutes; was then re-edited and re-released in a shorter 79-minutes version under the title "Mad Wednesday" in 1950. See more »

Connections

Referenced in James Harvey on Preston Sturges (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Can-Can
(uncredited)
from "Orpheus in the Underworld"
Music by Jacques Offenbach
Played during the can-can scene
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User Reviews

 
Not a classic, but certainly deserves to be remembered
15 December 2000 | by d_fienbergSee all my reviews

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 successful 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 Palm Beach Story and Sullivan's Travels are among the very best of their time.

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.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 April 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mad Wednesday See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,712,959 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1950 re-release) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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