Oh, Doctor! (1917)
Fatty plays Dr. Holepoke and Buster is his young son in this short, which is the first Arbuckle-Keaton collaboration to include a screen credit for a writer, Jean Havez, who would later become one of Keaton's key gagmen. Although Havez and others provided airtight structure to Keaton's later features, in the case of Oh, Doctor!, the script hinders the high jinks rather than improves them. The plot is more complex than is common for Arbucke-Keaton shorts and I think the film is poorer for it. Although there are some clever verbal gags, the presence of writer Jean Havez also means more intertitles delaying the action and a greater emphasis on plot reversal. Worst of all (from a Keaton fan standpoint) is that Buster has little to do here except laugh, cry, and look pitiful in short pants. Unlike other pictures, this one features many intertitles and verbal gags. Some are funny, others are groan-inducing and all of them are very punny.
The plot involves some off-track betting, Fatty losing all his dough and trying to get it back. St. John plays another rival that's also trying to con Fatty out of his money. There's a police uniform involved and a lot of people running in and out of rooms, being locked in closets, a stolen necklace and other not very funny shenanigans. There are plenty of pratfalls and hard knocks to be had here, too, to satisfy the inner twelve year old in every viewer (Arbuckle maintained that the average filmgoer had the sensibilities of that age--ouch!). However, there's frankly just too much going on here to sustain any laughs for too long. Buster has almost nothing to do except be abuses by Fatty. In fact, because there are so many characters and so many plot points, neither Keaton nor St. John have much to do and Arbuckle doesn't display his usual childlike charm, either. The film has a pat ending--Fatty bets on a 500 to 1 race horse that--surprise!--delivers and he's regained all the money he lost at the beginning of the film. Oh, Doctor! is a pretty disappointing installment in the Arbuckle-Keaton collection.