In the silent movie Never Weaken, Harold Lloyd plays a peculiar kind of protagonist. By turns duplicitous, suicidal, and cowardly, there is little about his character that endears him to the audience. He doesn’t confront his disastrous fate with the stoic optimism of a Keaton, the charming aplomb of a Chaplin, or even the boyish all-American spirit of…well, a Lloyd. All he does is survive until the end of the movie.
However, at the start, even if his methods are questionable, Lloyd has nothing but the best intentions. Determined to help his fiancée (a receptionist for an osteopath who will soon find herself unemployed if business doesn’t pick up), Lloyd takes to the streets, accompanied by an acrobat who has agreed to fake a series of spectacular, bone-shattering falls. After each staged accident, Lloyd administers violently bizarre twists and stretches to the limbs and torso of his accomplice. When the acrobat springs up and walks away good as new, Lloyd hands out the business cards of the osteopathic specialist, an impressed crowd of onlookers snapping them up.
Later in the film, convinced his fiancée no longer wants to marry him, Lloyd attempts to take his life. When poisoning, stabbing, gassing, and jumping out a window don’t work, he decides to shoot himself, tying one end of a length of string to the trigger of a gun–propped up on a desk and pointed at his chair–and attaching the other end to a doorknob. A blindfold tied over his eyes, he calls the janitor on the phone and tells him to come “Quick!”—unaware that a light bulb is teetering on the edge of a nearby bookcase. It tumbles to the floor, explodes, and Lloyd melodramatically grabs his chest. Simultaneously, a girder swings through the open French windows behind him, under his chair, and then out again, taking him with it.
Clueless, suspended above the city, Lloyd hears heavenly harp music (coming from a nearby window where a music teacher instructs a student) and removes his blindfold. He is amazed to find himself face to face with an angel (actually a winged statue on the side of a building), and for a moment, not only accepts his fate but seems to embrace it. Then he looks down and sees the street—thirty stories below. His life in imminent danger, all thought of suicide vanishes, and Lloyd clings to the girder for dear life.