Sin of Harold Diddlebock, The (1947)

“Every man is the architect of his own fortune.”

Sin Harold Diddlebock

Synopsis:
A recently fired accountant (Harold Lloyd) goes on a bender for the first time and becomes the owner of a circus, which he must then find a way to unload.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary labels this creative collaboration of silent comedian Harold Lloyd and writer-director Preston Sturges “disappointing but mildly amusing”. He accurately points out that it contains strong elements of both men’s prior work, given that the film literally opens with an extended clip from Lloyd’s silent classic The Freshman (1925), and is based upon a similar premise as Sturges’ The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) (with an unseen alcoholic bender producing hilariously challenging consequences). In truth, I think Peary underestimates this controversial film, which was inexplicably pulled from circulation, drastically edited, and renamed Mad Wednesday; it’s actually a most enjoyable slapstick comedy, filled with healthy doses of satirical humor. In his final film, Lloyd (looking MUCH younger than his 54 years) is at the top of his game, and Sturges’ script provides nonstop enjoyment until about 2/3rds of the way through, when Lloyd’s nonsensical plan to try to rid himself of his circus by visiting the offices of prominent bankers in Manhattan temporarily derails the story. Fortunately, things get back on track during the “film’s highlight”, which “finds Lloyd dangling high above [the] city by a rope attached to the neck of a lion”. As Peary notes, the entire cast — most notably Jimmy Conlin as Lloyd’s partner in crime, and Frances Ramsden as his gorgeous workplace crush — is “sterling”. A minor quibble: it’s too bad the title’s first word was changed from “saga” to “sin”, since the latter makes little sense.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Harold Lloyd as Harold Diddlebock
    Sin Harold Lloyd
  • Fine supporting performances by Jimmy Conlin and others
    Sin Harold Conlin
  • Sturges’ zany screenplay
    Sin Harold Zany

Must See?
Yes, as Harold Lloyd’s swan song.

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One Response to “Sin of Harold Diddlebock, The (1947)”

  1. Not a must.

    I would agree with Peary on this one. “Disappointing but mildly amusing.” That about sums it up for me. Sturges’ script is like a rough draft for a better film. Truncated or not, it’s hard to see how a more complete version of the film would be a superior one. (I know I’ve seen the film before – and the one I rewatched was 90 minutes and felt complete.) It’s uneven and a bit confusing. It has some dialogue and moments that are wonderful. It has a few very successful, witty sequences (i.e. Lloyd explaining to Ramsden about all of his former relationships with her sisters; Lloyd trying to sell the zoo back to the man he bought it from). But it is also often simply trying too hard and sometimes seems to just go out of control improperly, giving the film – overall – a bit of a schizophrenic quality. Lloyd also tends to be trying too hard – but that’s less his fault than some of the things the ‘zany’ script has him doing (those post-alcohol animal noises of his, after awhile, become tiresome).

    Sturges has a number of his regular actors in this film – and that does make for something of a comfortable feeling, since they are all at least aiming for what Sturges does best. I esp. love Margaret Hamilton being on-board this time. She is not a Sturges regular but she fits in just fine here (although I would have loved more of her in this).

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