This film is part of Free

The Rollicking Rajah

Early Vivaphone film capturing a jolly music hall routine about a maharajah's visit to London, made to be screened with a synchronised sound disc.

Variety show 1914 3 mins Silent


This jolly music hall routine about an Indian maharajah visiting London, where he is entertained by a bevy of English roses, would have been shown with a synchronised sound disc. Once thought lost, the original recording has now been sourced, digitised and matched to the film for this presentation. Indian characters played by white actors in makeup appear outdated today, but in the 1910s reflected public fascination with eastern exoticism.

British film pioneer Cecil Hepworth's own-brand Vivaphone system used 10-inch discs to synchronise sound with film. They were made in great numbers and were modestly successful, but were only as good as the recordings and amplification equipment of the day. They now provide a very rare record of variety performances of the day. The ‘singer’ in the film is Harry Buss and the singer on the disc is Harry Fay. The film's original recording was supplied to the BFI by Alex Gleason with thanks to Glenn Mitchell. This synchronised Vivaphone film has been supported by The Adam S Rubinson Charitable Fund.