The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)

89-90, 92 or 94 mins | Comedy | 4 April 1947

Director:

Preston Sturges

Producer:

Howard Hughes

Cinematographers:

Robert Pittack, Curtis Courant

Editor:

Thomas Neff

Production Designer:

Robert Usher

Production Company:

California Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

This film was also reviewed and released under the title Mad Wednesday , and is still listed under both titles. The viewed print opened with the following written foreword: "The football game you are about to see was actually photographed in 1925 as part of Harold Lloyd's famous picture 'The Freshman:' The story of a water boy who thought he was a member of the team." The following acknowledgment appeared at the end of the viewed print: "The California Pictures Corporation is extremely grateful to Mr. Harold Lloyd for his permission to use part of 'The Freshman,' and to Messrs. Wally Westmore and Robert Paris for their able assistance to Mr. Lloyd in the creation of the role of Harold Diddlebock." The Freshman , which was released in 1925 by Pathé Exchange, was a highly successful silent film starring Harold Lloyd as bumbler "Harold Lamb" (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films; 1921-30 ; F2.1971). The 1925 football footage is intercut with some contemporary footage. Preston Sturges' onscreen credit reads: "An original screenplay written and directed by Preston Sturges." Although a 1946 copyright statement appears on the viewed print, the picture was registered with the Copyright Office in 1950, under the title Mad Wednesday . According to an Apr 1948 HR news item, Polish-born cameraman Curtis Courant actually shot this picture, but was not awarded screen credit because he was not a union member. The union local required that he have a stand-by first cameraman (Robert Pittack, presumably) and was not permitted to give orders or touch any equipment.
       Lloyd, who was one of the most popular silent film ... More Less

This film was also reviewed and released under the title Mad Wednesday , and is still listed under both titles. The viewed print opened with the following written foreword: "The football game you are about to see was actually photographed in 1925 as part of Harold Lloyd's famous picture 'The Freshman:' The story of a water boy who thought he was a member of the team." The following acknowledgment appeared at the end of the viewed print: "The California Pictures Corporation is extremely grateful to Mr. Harold Lloyd for his permission to use part of 'The Freshman,' and to Messrs. Wally Westmore and Robert Paris for their able assistance to Mr. Lloyd in the creation of the role of Harold Diddlebock." The Freshman , which was released in 1925 by Pathé Exchange, was a highly successful silent film starring Harold Lloyd as bumbler "Harold Lamb" (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films; 1921-30 ; F2.1971). The 1925 football footage is intercut with some contemporary footage. Preston Sturges' onscreen credit reads: "An original screenplay written and directed by Preston Sturges." Although a 1946 copyright statement appears on the viewed print, the picture was registered with the Copyright Office in 1950, under the title Mad Wednesday . According to an Apr 1948 HR news item, Polish-born cameraman Curtis Courant actually shot this picture, but was not awarded screen credit because he was not a union member. The union local required that he have a stand-by first cameraman (Robert Pittack, presumably) and was not permitted to give orders or touch any equipment.
       Lloyd, who was one of the most popular silent film comics, returned to the screen with this picture after a nine-year absence. (His previous screen appearance was in Paramount's 1938 film Professor Beware .) In Jul 1944, HR reported that Lloyd and Sturges were closing a deal in which Lloyd would become a producer-director at California Studios, a company that Sturges had just formed with millionaire producer-businessman Howard Hughes. Lloyd's first project was announced at that time as The Sin of Hilda Diddlebeck , a story by Sturges about the "escapades of a girl in Hollywood." Modern sources note that Sturges tempted Lloyd, one of his movie idols, back to the screen by promising to allow him to direct a part of the picture. By the time shooting had begun, however, Lloyd was functioning only as a performer, according to modern sources. The picture's window ledge sequence recalls one of Lloyd's best known screen "stunts" from his 1923 silent comedy, Safety Last . Although HR announced in Jun 1945 that Sturges and Lloyd were set to make a second picture together, called The Wizard of Whispering Falls , The Sin of Harold Diddlebock was Lloyd's last original film. (His final two releases were compilation films.)
       Although screen credits suggest that Frances Ramsden made her debut in the film, she had appeared previously in other films. Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: In Sep 1945, Orson Welles was announced as a cast member, playing a magician, but was not seen in the viewed print. Ginny Wren and Timmy Hawkins were also cast in the film, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Some scenes in the picture were filmed in a hansom cab on Riverside Drive in Los Angeles. Modern sources add that because California Pictures was a new company, Sturges did not have an adequate production support system and at one point tried to purchase Sherman Studios. When that failed, he moved the production to the Goldwyn Studios, where he went $600,000 over budget. Additional shooting, including the window ledge sequence, was done at Sturges' former studio, Paramount, according to modern sources.
       In May 1947, according to HR , Hughes ran a contest among his employees to find a shorter title for the picture, offering $250 to the winner. Contemporary sources note that in Jun 1947, after it had played in only three cities, United Artists pulled the film from distribution and retitled it Mad Wednesday . According to DV , the title was changed because of concerns that the word "sin" would be damaging to the "family trade." Intending to put the picture back in circulation by Oct 1947, United Artists then sent a special effects crew to San Francisco to film process shots. The film was not shown theatrically until 1950, however. Modern sources claim that United Artists backed out of its distribution deal with producer Howard Hughes. On 28 Oct 1950, after Hughes had acquired RKO, RKO released the film nationally as Mad Wednesday . At that time, the picture was cut from approximately 90 to 77 minutes. In his autobiography, Sturges commented that for its 1947 release, the film "got the best reviews I ever received." (Most of the reviews were mixed and commented on the unevenness of the humor.) Sturges added that Hughes "took this as a cue to recut the picture entirely, leaving out all the parts I considered the best in the picture, and adding to its end a talking horse."
       Credits for the 1950 version, as reflected by the copyright cutting continuity, differ slightly from the 1947 version. In the 1950 version, Harold Lloyd's name appears below the film's title. (According to contemporary news items, Lloyd filed a $750,000 lawsuit in 1953 against RKO and California Pictures, claiming that his loss of star billing on the film and in advertising constituted a breach of contract. The disposition of that suit is not known.) Rudy Vallee, whose part was all but eliminated, does not receive onscreen credit in the later version, nor does Georgia Caine. In addition, Jerry Fairbanks is listed as providing the "talking animal process" for the 1950 version. Ramsden's elaborate onscreen 1947 credit was reduced to "and introducing Frances Ramsden" in the shortened version. (The viewed print was titled The Sin of Harold Diddlebock and included all of the cut scenes.) Modern sources credit Stuart Gilmore as editor of the shortened version and Melvin Koontz as the trainer of Jackie, the lion. In addition, modern sources list Alice in the role of the hansom carriage horse and add the following actors to the cast: Wilbur Mack ( Football rooter ), Harry Rosenthal ( Reveler ), Angelo Rossitto ( Dwarf ), Tom McGuire ( Police captain ), Bob Reeves ( Ringling Bros. representative ) and Ethelreda Leopold. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Feb 1947.
---
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1947.
---
Daily Variety
26 May 1947.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1950.
---
Daily Variety
16 Jun 1953.
---
Film Daily
20 Feb 47
p. 8.
Film Daily
4 Apr 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jul 1944.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 45
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 45
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 45
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 46
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 46
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 47
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 1953.
---
Independent Film Journal
5 Jan 46
p. 38.
Life
6 Nov 50
pp. 85-86, 88
Motion Picture Herald
8 Feb 1947.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 Mar 46
p. 2871.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Mar 47
p. 3503.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Oct 50
p. 545.
New York Times
25 Jan 51
p. 21.
Variety
19 Feb 47
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
An orig scr wrt by
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set des
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech dir
Prod mgr
Dir, The Freshman
Dir, The Freshman
Scen, The Freshman
Scen, The Freshman
Scen, The Freshman
Scen, The Freshman
Photog, The Freshman
Photog, The Freshman
Talking animal process
SOURCES
MUSIC
Love theme by Harry Rosenthal.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Mad Wednesday
Release Date:
4 April 1947
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Miami, FL: 18 February 1947
Production Date:
mid September 1945--late January 1946
Copyright Claimant:
California Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1946
Copyright Number:
LP591
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
89-90, 92 or 94
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
11970
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After Harold Diddlebock, a bumbling freshman water boy, scores the winning touchdown for his college's football team, he is approached by alumnus E. J. Waggleberry. In the excitement of the moment, Waggleberry, an advertising tycoon, offers Harold a job upon his graduation, but when Harold appears in the executive's New York office four years later, Waggleberry fails to remember him. Although Harold dreams of becoming an "ideas man," Waggleberry assigns him to a lowly position in the bookkeeping department. Twenty-two years later, the platitude-spouting Harold is still working as a bookkeeper when he is fired by Waggleberry for incompetency and lack of ambition. Before leaving the agency, Harold collects his life savings and confesses to Miss Otis, an artist with the firm, that he is in love with her. Recalling her six older sisters, all of whom he fell in love with but never proposed to, Harold then gives Miss Otis the engagement ring he bought for her eldest sister years before. Later, on the street, a depressed Harold is studying the classifieds when Wormy, a racetrack tout, asks him for four dollars. After Harold hands the pesky Wormy a large bill, Wormy, sensing an opportunity, insists on taking his sad "friend" to a bar. There bartender Jake concocts a special drink for Harold, who has never imbibed alcohol. The drink, which Jake proudly dubs "The Diddlebock," emboldens Harold and causes him to yowl uncontrollably. Gazing at himself in the bar mirror, Harold suddenly declares himself a loser and races out to remake himself. Soon Harold is getting his hair cut and his nails manicured, and is trying on a gaudy suit ... +


After Harold Diddlebock, a bumbling freshman water boy, scores the winning touchdown for his college's football team, he is approached by alumnus E. J. Waggleberry. In the excitement of the moment, Waggleberry, an advertising tycoon, offers Harold a job upon his graduation, but when Harold appears in the executive's New York office four years later, Waggleberry fails to remember him. Although Harold dreams of becoming an "ideas man," Waggleberry assigns him to a lowly position in the bookkeeping department. Twenty-two years later, the platitude-spouting Harold is still working as a bookkeeper when he is fired by Waggleberry for incompetency and lack of ambition. Before leaving the agency, Harold collects his life savings and confesses to Miss Otis, an artist with the firm, that he is in love with her. Recalling her six older sisters, all of whom he fell in love with but never proposed to, Harold then gives Miss Otis the engagement ring he bought for her eldest sister years before. Later, on the street, a depressed Harold is studying the classifieds when Wormy, a racetrack tout, asks him for four dollars. After Harold hands the pesky Wormy a large bill, Wormy, sensing an opportunity, insists on taking his sad "friend" to a bar. There bartender Jake concocts a special drink for Harold, who has never imbibed alcohol. The drink, which Jake proudly dubs "The Diddlebock," emboldens Harold and causes him to yowl uncontrollably. Gazing at himself in the bar mirror, Harold suddenly declares himself a loser and races out to remake himself. Soon Harold is getting his hair cut and his nails manicured, and is trying on a gaudy suit supplied by tailor Formfit Franklin. In the midst of his transformation, Harold overhears Wormy talking with Max, a bookmaker's assistant, and impulsively bets $1,000 on a long shot named Emmaline. To everyone's surprise, Emmaline wins, and the now-rich Harold begins to celebrate all around town. Sometime later, Harold is awakened at home by his widowed sister Flora, who chastises him for his wild, irresponsible behavior and hideous clothes. Unable to remember much about his drunken binge, particularly about what he did on Wednesday, Harold wanders outside and is surprised to learn that he now owns a hansom cab and employs an English driver named Thomas. A worried Wormy then rushes up and informs Harold that, with winnings from a second bet, Harold also bought a bankrupt circus. To feed the circus' starving lions and tigers, Harold first seeks help from the Kitty-Poo Home for Cats, then gets the idea to sell the circus to Wall Street banker Lynn Sargent. Although circus lover Sargent reveals that he, too, is trying to unload an unprofitable bigtop, Harold immediately comes up with another scheme. With Jackie, a tame circus lion, in tow, Harold and Wormy visit other bankers and suggest that, to improve their public image, they invest in a free circus for children. Jackie's presence causes a screaming panic, and soon Jackie, Harold and Wormy end up on the ledge of a skyscraper window. After nearly falling to their deaths, the trio is arrested and thrown in jail. As hoped, Harold's picture appears in the newspaper, but it is Miss Otis, not the bankers, who comes to bail him out. When Thomas then reveals that the newspaper listed the wrong police station in its story, Harold and Wormy rush to the other station and are relieved to see a mob of bankers there. The bankers bid desperately on the circus, but are quickly outbid by a representative of the Ringling Brothers circus. To celebrate, Harold downs a "Diddlebock," and sometime later, finds himself in his cab with Miss Otis. Although Miss Otis informs him that he received $175,000 for the circus and has been made an executive at Waggleberry's firm, Harold notices that she is wearing a wedding ring and becomes depressed. Miss Otis then reveals that, during his last "Diddlebock" binge, he married her. Reassuring Harold that she truly loves him, Miss Otis gives him a big kiss, and Harold finally remembers what he was doing on Wednesday. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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