The Sin of Harold Diddlebock
|The Sin of Harold Diddlebock|
theatrical poster for 1950 re-release
|Directed by||Preston Sturges|
|Produced by||Preston Sturges
|Written by||Preston Sturges|
|Music by||Werner R. Heymann
Harry Rosenthal (uncredited)
Curtis Courant (uncredited)
|Edited by||Thomas Neff
Stuart Gilmore (re-rel.)
|Distributed by||United Artists
76 minutes (re-release)
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock is a 1947 comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, starring the silent film comic icon Harold Lloyd, and featuring Jimmy Conlin, Raymond Walburn, Rudy Vallee, Arline Judge, Edgar Kennedy, Franklin Pangborn and Lionel Stander. The film's story is a continuation of The Freshman, one of Lloyd's most successful movies.
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock was Sturges' first project after leaving Paramount Pictures, where he had made his best and most popular films, but the film was not successful in its initial release. It was quickly pulled from distribution by producer Howard Hughes who took almost four years to re-shoot some scenes and re-edit the film, finally re-releasing it in 1950 as Mad Wednesday – but the reception by the general public was no better the second time around. A few critics consider this film a masterpiece of comedy.
Lloyd was never to star in another film, turning instead to production, and releasing compilation films featuring his earlier silent film work.
In 1945, twenty-three years after scoring the winning touchdown for his college football team (as told in The Freshman), mild-mannered Harold Diddlebock (Harold Lloyd), who has been stuck in a dull, dead-end book-keeping job for years, is let go by his pompous boss, advertising tycoon J.E. Waggleberry (Raymond Walburn), with nothing but a tiny pension of $1,000. He bids farewell to the girl at the desk down the aisle, Miss Otis (Frances Ramsden), whom he had hoped to marry – just as he had hoped to marry five of her older sisters before that – and wanders aimlessly through the streets, his life's savings in hand.
While wandering the streets, Harold has a run-in with an older man who introduces himself as Wormy (Jimmy Conlin), who happens to be a local con artist, petty gambler and racetrack lout. Seeing the large amount of cash that Harold has in his hands, Wormy takes the depressed and unemployed Harold to a local bar for a drink, hoping to get him drunk enough to acquire some of the cash. When Harold tells the bartender (Edgar Kennedy) that he's never had a drink in his life, the barkeep creates a potent cocktail he calls "The Diddlebock", one sip of which is enough to release Harold from all his inhibitions, setting him off on a day-and-a-half binge of spending, gambling, and carousing.
A day or two later, Harold wakes up on the sofa inside the house of his widowed sister Flora (Margaret Hamilton). He finds that he has a hangover, but he also has a garish new wardrobe, a ten-gallon cowboy hat, a horse-drawn hansom cab complete with driver, and ownership of a bankrupt circus.
Trying to sell the circus, Harold and Wormy visit circus-loving Wall Street banker Lynn Sargent (Rudy Vallee). When he turns them down, the rest of the town's bankers follow suit. To get past the bank guards, Harold brings along Jackie the Lion, who incites panic. Wormy gives shot drinks of the potent "Diddlebock" cocktail to Sargent and each of the bankers they visit so their inhibitions will fade and convince them to put in bids for ownership of the circus. Things take a turn for the worse when the lion gets loose, in which Harold, Wormy and the lion end up on the ledge of a skyscraper, but narrowly avoid plunging to certain death.
The three are arrested and thrown in jail, but Miss Otis bails them out, and they find that the publicity has attracted a mob of bankers who want to buy the circus – but Ringling Brothers outbids them. Harold celebrates with another "Diddlebock", and again has another relapse. In the final scene, Harold wakes up another day or two later in the horse-drawn cab with Miss Otis where he learns that he got $175,000 for the circus, he's now an executive at Waggleberry's agency, and that he and Miss Otis got married during his first binge.
- Harold Lloyd as Harold Diddlebock
- Jimmy Conlin as Wormy
- Raymond Walburn as E.J. Waggleberry
- Rudy Vallee as Lynn Sargent
- Edgar Kennedy as Jake, the bartender
- Arline Judge as Manicurist
- Franklin Pangborn as Formfit Franklin
- Lionel Stander as Max
- Margaret Hamilton as Flora
- Jack Norton as James R. Smoke
- Robert Dudley as Robert McDuffy
- Arthur Hoyt as J.P. Blackstone
- Julius Tannen as Nearsighted Banker
- Al Bridge as Wild Bill Hickock
- Robert Greig as Algernon McNiff
- Georgia Caine as Bearded lady
- Torben Meyer as Barber with mustache
- Victor Potel as Prof. Potelle
- Frances Ramsden as Frances Otis
- The Sin of Harold Diddlebock was Lloyd's last original film.
- This movie was the only credited feature film appearance of Frances Ramsden (1920—2000), whose role is important enough that she could have received second billing.
- After Howard Hughes re-edited the film, Rudy Vallee's part was almost entirely cut out, and he did not receive screen credit on the re-released film, Mad Wednesday, nor did Georgia Caine. Also, Lloyd's billing was moved from above the title to below, provoking Lloyd to file a $750,000 lawsuit in 1953 against RKO and California Pictures, claiming breach of contract.
- The supporting cast of Harold Diddlebock is largely made up of charter members of Preston Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors, including Al Bridge, Georgia Caine, Jimmy Conlin, Robert Dudley, Robert Greig, Arthur Hoyt, J. Farrell MacDonald, Torben Meyer, Charles R. Moore, Frank Moran, Jack Norton, Franklin Pangborn, Victor Potel, Dewey Robinson, Harry Rosenthal, Julius Tannen and Max Wagner.
After writer-director Preston Sturges left Paramount Pictures in 1944, he and millionaire Howard Hughes formed California Pictures, and in July of that year it was reported that Sturges had tempted one of his idols, Harold Lloyd, out of retirement to become a producer-director at the new studio, with his first project to be "The Sin of Hilda Diddlebock", a story written by Sturges about a girl's adventures in Hollywood, and their second project a film called "The Wizard of Whispering Falls" (Lloyd had not appeared on film since 1938's Professor Beware). Even after Lloyd became the lead character, he was promised by Sturges that he could direct part of the film, but this never happened. Although the project began as a labor of love between Sturges and Lloyd, the two had a falling out over creative differences, which affected the quality of the finished film.
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock went into production on 12 September 1945. California Pictures was a new company and didn't have adequate facilities to make the film, so Sturges attempted to buy Sherman Studios. When he failed, production on The Sin of Harold Diddlebock was located at Goldwyn Studios, with additional shooting – including the window ledge scene which recalled a well-known similar scene from Lloyd's Safety Last (1923) – at Paramount Studios. Some location shooting (for the hansom cab scenes) took place on Riverside Drive in Los Angeles. By the time that filming wrapped on 29 January 1946, the film was $600,000 over budget.
The film premiered in Miami, Florida on 8 February 1947, and went into general release on 4 April. Despite Sturges' later claim that the film "got the best reviews I ever received," the notices were mixed and commented on the unevenness of the comedy, perhaps the result of the falling out between Sturges and Lloyd. Sturges claimed that producer Howard Hughes used the reviews as an excuse to re-make the film.
In May, it was reported that Hughes was running a contest for his employees to find a shorter name for the film, with the winner to get $250; the next month, after it had only played in three cities, the film was pulled from circulation and its name changed to Mad Wednesday, because of concerns that the word "sin" in the title would hold back the film's box office from the "family trade". It was intended to return the film to distribution as soon as October, and a special effects crew was sent to San Francisco to film process shots to be used in the film's re-editing.
In the event, because of Hughes' re-editing of the film and re-shooting of some scenes – Sturges said that Hughes "[left] out all the parts I considered the best in the picture, and adding to its end a talking horse" – the film was not ready for re-release until 1950. United Artists backed out of their distribution deal with Hughes, so after Hughes bought RKO, he used his new studio to release the film, now cut from 89 to 76 minutes, on 28 October 1947. The total cost of the film was estimated to be $1,712,959.
Both versions of the film, as originally released and as altered by Hughes, still exist. The shorter version plays better for audiences, while the original is richer in its comic invention and characterizations.
Awards and honors
- TCM Notes
- Erickson, Hal "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock" (Allmovie)
- TCM Full synopsis
- Li, Kathy Plot summary (IMDB)
- IMDB Business data
- James Curtis, Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges, Limelight, 1984 p210
- IMDB Release dates
- "Festival de Cannes: The Sin of Harold Diddlebock". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-16.
- IMDB Awards
- The Sin of Harold Diddlebock at the Internet Movie Database
- The Sin of Harold Diddlebock is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- The Sin of Harold Diddlebock at the TCM Movie Database
- The Sin of Harold Diddlebock at AllMovie