The Cook (1918)

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  • directed by Roscoe Arbuckle
  • starring Roscoe Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Al St. John
  • The chef of an oceanside restaurant and his assistant wreak havoc in the establishment.

The first part of The Cook is an exercise in how many physical gags you can cram into a typical busy restaurant setting. In the kitchen of the Bull Pup Cafe, the eggs bounce like ping pong balls, pancakes are smashed by foot, all food gets juggled, and all garbage gets thrown into the same vat, the same magical vat that spews out chicken soup, ice cream, coffee, milk, and even Arbuckle’s coat at the end of a shift.

Buster Keaton is the waiter who shouts orders from the dining room, the film then cuts to Roscoe on the stove who puts it together in his own balletic way, Keaton steps one foot into the kitchen door, is thrown the order, it all lands right side up in his hand, and he exits. This sequence goes on repeating for the first half of the 20-minute runtime and never gets old.

The food service is at one point broken up by a piece of dinner entertainment, a dance sequence by Keaton and a woman that is contagious enough to spill into the kitchen, and then a fight scene between a thief and the staff, which leads to a chase straight into the ocean at the end.

The film is full of the simplest of concepts gloriously executed, including the staff lunch, which features the many hilarious ways that one can eat spaghetti. One guy brings a forkful over his head and basically dumps it on his face, Arbuckle twirls it around his index finger and at one point slurps up his tie, and best of all Keaton dumps a mound of it into a teacup, trims off the overload with scissors, and sits there sipping it.

Due to health problems, ongoing drug and alcohol issues, and the much-publicized scandal that came from the death of 26-year-old Virginia Rappe at a party gone very wrong, Arbuckle’s film career never made it through the early 1920’s. After two mistrials, he was finally acquitted of manslaughter in the third, but by that time his name and public image were tarnished beyond repair. He left behind a handful of truly great comedies, The Cook included, but more than the specific works he created throughout the decade of the 1910’s, the performer’s enduring legacy has been contributing to the career launches of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and the discovery of Bob Hope in 1927.

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About classixquest
all the things I should have seen

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