This film is part of Free

Hot Water and Vegetabuel

"Don't be cruel to a vegetabuel": delightful pair of music hall numbers from the eccentric writer of Jollity Farm.

Comedy 1928 9 mins


Some film dead-ends take on a life of their own. The De Forest sound system may have lost the technology race to better quality rivals, but it left us with priceless records of 20th Century music hall acts, including eccentric comic songwriter Leslie Sarony. In front of a simple pub doorway set, he sings two numbers, starting with the endearing Hot Water. But the highlight is the delightful Vegetabuel ("Don't be cruel to a vegetabuel"), which has something of the daft flavour of his most famous song, Jollity Farm.

De Forest's optical sound-on-film system was patented by the Iowa-born Lee De Forest in 1919. It failed to win favour with the Hollywood studios, but during the 1920s it spawned a series of 'De Forest Phonofilms' which now serve as matchless records of early 20th century vaudeville and music hall acts in America and the UK. Though they don't capture the atmosphere of a live performance, these numerous short films are sometimes the only filmed record of the original acts. Dozens are preserved at the BFI National Archive, with more in the collections of the US Library of Congress. Sarony enjoyed a long career into the 1980s, including an appearance in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983). The wonderful Jollity Farm is now best known for the Bonzo Dog Band's 1967 cover.