This is part of an ongoing series looking at obscure/little talked about good films.
Frequent readers of this blog are well aware of the fondness I have for Harold Lloyd. His films still stand out as some of the funniest and most charming of all time, and watching more of him only makes that more obvious. He made some successful sound films too, but ultimately chose to retire. Today we’re going to talk about the one film he made when he came out of retirement. It has a troubled history and is rarely mentioned now, but it shows just now talented Harold Lloyd was.
If you happened to see The Sin of Harold Diddlebock around the time it came out, you probably know it under a different name, Mad Wednesday. That’s because the film as originally made was barely seen by anyone. Producer Howard Hughes panicked after early bad reviews and pulled the film from theaters quickly. It then took him years to release it under that different title, and with a shorter runtime. With a history like that, things aren’t looking good for this film. Add to it that the film when badly over schedule and over budget, and this sounds like it must have been a disaster.
In reality, it wasn’t a disaster on film, even if it was a disaster in production and release. On paper alone, it looks like the film should work as a great comedy. After all, Preston Sturges is directing Harold Lloyd here. Indeed, it was Sturges that convinced Lloyd to come out of retirement for a loose sequel to The Freshman. Does the combination of these two working together turn out well?
It sure does. Sturges clearly knew how to create a Harold Lloyd-like film. It certainly feels like one, particularly with a typical zany, dangerous climax. The film has a tough act to follow considering it opens with the final ten minutes of The Freshman, but the material is strong enough to work.
And Harold Lloyd is strong enough too. As with his other talkies, this film makes it clear that sound different hurt Lloyd’s charm or abilities at all. Lloyd, still looking as youthful as ever, brings the same kind of presence and performance found in his silent films. In fact, the best extended scene in the film relies partially on Lloyd’s voice supplying a huge punch line. He’s still the same comedic genius, delighting as always. This film really hammers home how unfortunate it is that he chose to retire.
And it’s also unfortunate that Lloyd’s swan song has been mostly written off or ignored. While some stars met with sad ends where they didn’t have it any more, that is clearly not the case with Lloyd. What we have in The Sin of Harold Diddlebock is Lloyd proving to still be at the top of his game, all these years later. A couple more classic Lloyd moments can be found here, along with one final great comedy.