When I tell people that my favorite version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, aside from the book itself, is a cartoon version starring the myopic Mr. Magoo, they think I’m kidding. But I’m really quite serious.
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol was first broadcast on network television in 1962, and of all the versions of classic story that exist, this one, I believe, is the best. It features the bumbling character performing in a musical version of A Christmas Carol in front of a cartoon-cutout audience, which is odd only if you think too much about it.
Although the animation is primitive, even by 1962 standards, the talent involved in the production is impressive. The original musical numbers feature music by Jule Styne (Funny Girl) and lyrics by Bob Merrill (Carnival) – “Winter Was Warm” is a hauntingly beautiful song – and besides the great Jim Backus, voices include Morey Amsterdam and Jack Cassidy. My VHS copy is wearing out, but luckily the 52-minute show was released on DVD a couple of years ago.
As I did with It’s a Wonderful Loaf, I’ve combined the holiday tradition of watching Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol with the annual baking of my favorite Christmas cookie — thumbprints. These are seriously good cookies, and, for me, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them. Although, to be honest, it’s a little less like Christmas without my mom to bake them for me. A sigh for Christmases past.
1 copy of “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” video
½ cup margarine
½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks (reserve the whites)
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 cups flour
½ tsp. Salt
1 lb. Powdered sugar
4 Tbs. Butter
1 tsp. Vanilla
Red and green food coloring
These cookies must be made while watching Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, the finest version of the Dicken’s classic ever made.
Start the movie then mix ½ cup margarine, ½ cup butter, brown sugar, yolks and vanilla in a mixing bowl until well blended. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl and blend well with a wooden spoon. The mixture will get real crumbly and you’ll think you’ve done something horribly wrong but will then miraculously turn into something recognizable as cookie dough.
Refrigerate the dough a short time – 20 minutes or so or until Mr. Magoo is visited by the ghost of Christmas present – until it is well-cooled. You may refrigerate it overnight but you’ll have to start the movie where you left off.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if you try to continue without removing it from the refrigerator you could suffocate). Slightly whip the egg whites (you still have them, don’t you?). Form the dough into little balls. Use your own judgement on what little means, but you should end up with a couple dozen balls. If you only have four, they’re too large.
Dip the balls in the egg whites and then roll them in the chopped walnuts. Place on cookie sheets.
Place the cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Using your thumb (left or right; it’s up to you), make a thumbprint or indentation in the center of each cookie. Return to oven and bake until light brown, about another 10 minutes.
When the cookies have cooled, blend the powdered sugar, butter and vanilla with a mixer adding just enough milk to get a fluffy texture. Separate the frosting in two portions. Add green food coloring to one and red food coloring to the other. (Note: it takes a lot of red coloring to get a really deep Christmasy red. If you don’t use enough they’ll turn out pink, and, trust me, these cookies aren’t going to last until Valentine’s Day.) Place a dollop of frosting in the indentation of each cookie so half the batch is red and the other is green. Enjoy while watching the end of the movie where Magoo realizes he hasn’t missed Christmas at all (oops! I shouldn’t have given away the ending).