Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle comedy The Cook (1918), featuring also Buster Keaton and Al St. John.
This is one of the more catch-as-catch-can of Arbuckle’s Comique series, consisting of three diverse, barely-related sections. Plot is of little concern.
In the first, we have lots of kitchen stunts and gags, with Fatty as the cook and Buster as a waiter. Fatty careless twirls a meat cleaver and tosses it around. Arbuckle throws vessels full of liquid to Keaton to catch – -and he does. Buster dances along with a performing belly dancer, and then Fatty joins in, adorning himself with kitchen implements and sausage links. All the patrons in the restaurant stand and watch him dancing in the kitchen. They applaud. Then Al St. John comes in and starts his own trouble.
Now a vastly different interlude. The kitchen staff eats spaghetti. (They clearly just had some spahhetti gags they wanted to do and stuck them in where they could.) Buster puts his spaghetti in a coffee cup and neatly trims it, so he can just raise the cup to his lips and eat it. Others do various spaghetti slurping gags, making faces, etc. Arbuckle turns his spaghetti with a hand mixer. Then he knits with it.
Finally, we are on to the third highly unrelated set piece. Fatty leaves work driving a goat cart, and carrying a long fishing pole. Much as Mack Sennett had in The Curtain Pole (1909) he knocks people over with his fishing rod and gets in trouble with the police. He winds up at an amusement park and does some ocean fishing. St. John chases a girl up a roller coaster. And then — as happens in too many silent comedies to count — everyone falls in the water.
To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To learn about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.