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