Lloyd's final short film before moving - accidentally - into features, Never Weaken is also one of his most memorable, owing to the thrilling skyscraper sequence that finishes the film.
The first half of the film, with Harold trying to drum up patients for a local chiropractor, is fun but also shows that even this late, literally months away from graduating to features, Lloyd still didn't completely grasp the character he had created. It's one thing to hire an acrobat to pretend to fall and hurt himself as part of his ruse. It's quite another to drop soap flakes in front of a street-cleaning buggy and hand out business cards to all the people who slip and fall. Had it been an innocent mistake, it would have made a great gag (imagine this gag in the hands of Laurel and Hardy!). Here, Harold is deliberately putting people in danger of injury for his own sake (he only wants to drum up business for the chiropractor because the love of his life is in danger of losing her receptionist job). The Harold of the feature films would never delibarately attempt to hurt an innocent bystander.
When he mistakenly thinks his girlfriend is in
love with another man, Harold makes several attempts at suicide.
In a convoluted manner I won't bother to describe, this
eventually leaves Harold stranded on the girders of a nearby building
under construction with no way down. From this moment on, Never
Weaken becomes one of his greatest shorts, as he perfects filming
techniques he had developed in previous shorts such as High and Dizzy.
Though we now know today that Lloyd was not on an actual
skyscraper but rather a set constructed on the roof of a building, and
that the visual effect of him being in real danger comes from using the
perfect camera angle, the result is still the same. Play this
short in front of an audience and there will be gasps followed by
laughs as Lloyd cavorts from girder to girder, always looking like he
is one step away from death. These techniques would be further
refined in his third feature film SAFETY LAST. ½ - JB