The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (Mad Wednesday)


(out of 5)

It’s as if the war ended and took Preston Sturges’ career with it, this failed comedy following the miscalculated drama The Great Moment before it.  Sturges coaxes silent film star  out of retirement to star in his madcap adventure that opens with footage from Lloyd’s classic comedy The Freshman (and inexplicably informs us that it is being sampled) before integrating that film’s story into a new one: having been offered a job in an advertising firm for his great work on the field, Lloyd begins work at entry level and, twenty years later, is still in the same position.  In the intervening years he has loved a succession of sisters who have worked in his office, none of whom he has ever had the money to marry, then is fired for his lack of ambition and given a severance with which to make a new life.  A gambling addict overhears him on the street mention the cash in his pocket and takes him to a bar in the hopes of loosening Lloyd up to lend him a few bucks, having no idea that this lifelong teetotaler will be so overwhelmed by one drink that he will wake up three days later having no idea what happened.  Looking at the brand new horse-drawn carriage out his window and gazing at his fancy suit, Lloyd realizes he got up to quite a lot in the days of his blackout, finding out he also purchased a circus that he now has to liquidate, taking a rather frisky lion on a leash around the city while tracking bankers down to help him, managing to get cozy to his lady love and even impress his old boss in the meantime.  Production difficulties and arguments with producer Howard Hughes led to an unsuccessful release in 1947 before Hughes re-edited the film and released it as Mad Wednesday in 1950, which also failed to find an audience.  The cynicism hidden in runaway slapstick that suited audiences getting through a world war no longer had a place in the humourless prosperity of post-war America; decades later, it still cannot really connect with the viewer thanks to focusing most of its energy on zaniness without having any of the rich characterization that made The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels so good.  It was definitely the end of an era, and Sturges only made four more films (including the unjustly maligned Unfaithfully Yours) before his death in 1959.

USA, 1947

Directed by Preston Sturges

Screenplay by Preston Sturges

Cinematography by

Produced by , Preston Sturges

Music by

Production Design by

Film Editing by ,

Cannes Film Festival:  1951

Golden Globe Awards:  1950


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