The Cook, 1918, was the last short Buster made before he was shipped off to fight in WWI. The footage was lost for years, but thankfully recovered and restored in the last decade. This is my personal favourite of the Arbuckle-Keaton films. The back and forth between them as they toss food across the kitchen and eat spaghetti is perfect. Buster also brakes out his famous dance moves which would so entertain the troops in France. It was tempting to make all gifs of him dancing, but the film, as it survives, is funny and Buster has firmly taken a credit over Al St. John as Roscoe’s partner. Luke the dog has some pretty impressive scenes as well, most notably running up a roller coaster.
So I’ve noticed over the course of watching a lot of things that Buster comes consistently closest to breaking his deadpan when he’s working with Roscoe and Al, which means a number of things:
Roscoe and Al were both very funny
Roscoe and Al knew exactly what Buster found funny and were able to push him more than other people
Roscoe and Al may have actively tried to gun Buster down knowing that he’d been practicing the deadpan since childhood and that breaking it would be fun
And then there’s that bit in Out West where Buster and Roscoe have to get Al’s character to stop harassing Alice Lake’s character. They end up resorting to somewhat childish measures, but they work. The thing I’ve been trying to figure out is whether or not Al’s reaction is genuine, because it looks like it is and even Buster briefly flashes an impish little grin before catching himself. On the flip side, though, Al’s crazed screaming and insane laughter in Bridge Wives shows that he could’ve acted this bit, too. (Side note: if you haven’t watched Bridge Wives, watch it. NOW. You will not regret this.)
Basically, I kind of have this combined theory that Roscoe, Buster and Al spent a lot of their time at Comique actively trying to corpse each other on camera. And apparently poking at Al until he was a giggling mess on the saloon floor, but that’s hard to resist doing.