Charles Laughton, Christmas Reflections, And The “Snapdragon” Game

It is the month of December, and time to listen to my collection of Christmas carol CDs and LPs and to bring out my children’s Christmas 78s.  The most popular of the children’s stories are the renditions of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, whether by Basil Rathbone, Ronald Coleman, Lionel Barrymore, or Ernest Chappell.  Indeed, these Hollywood artists of the 40s give a spark and splendor to the seasonal tale.  But there is another album, which must also be mentioned:  Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas as told by Charles Laughton.

Until recently, I didn’t even know I owned it!  I must have purchased it from The Old Curiosity Record Shop on Van Nuys Blvd., which had odd business hours and an irascible owner.  Needless to say, the store no longer exists, and is part of my childhood memories.  But Laughton’s album remains.  It is one of the few albums made by Hollywood stars that has the complete text of the recording and is part of Decca’s Personality Series.  Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas also offers some holiday reflections by Mr. Laughton:  “Dickens has put down, in magical words, our common human experiences at Christmas time–when we all try to get together with our parents, our children, brothers and sisters, close friends, at our house or theirs.  Old grudges, old pains are softened;  old loyalties are pledged again.  We give each other presents, around goes the cup, we sing–and each year no matter how much we complain beforehand about the nuisance of preparing for Christmas, warm hope is reborn in us.”  Later, he speaks of a novel game called snapdragon:  “One thing more, here’s how to play the game of snapdragon;  put some raisins in a fair-sized kitchen bowl, pour warmed brandy over them, light it, allow each player his/her turn to snatch a raisin from the flaming bowl and eat it(quickly, you’d better, or else…).  As far as I know, you do not take sides.  One old book says the game causes ‘fantastical mirth.’  It does–” IMG_5661IMG_5660

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

6 Responses to Charles Laughton, Christmas Reflections, And The “Snapdragon” Game

  1. This LP is quite a find, I would think. I recall when records of this type weren’t so rare, but that was long, long ago. I have some of the old albums of my childhood, but I rarely listen to them. I think it’s great that you do! 🙂

  2. rommel says:

    That game sounds horrid. 😀 “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” will do for me.
    Merry Christmas, Robert M. Weiss.

  3. Canterbury Records is a great store. When I lived in South Pasadena, I used to go there often… Merry Christmas, Rommel, and thanks for stopping by.

  4. Sun says:

    that is neat you still have a vintage collection of old time stories. lovely memories. i have to agree with Rommel on the game – scrap the match and raisins… just drink the brandy! cheers and happy holidays, Robert. 🙂

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