May 1, 2009

MGM's Leo the Lion

It's only been the third day of my visit back home on the east coast and I've already watched a dozen or more movies. The three hour difference can be somewhat brutal when it comes to trying to sleep at a normal time. During this marathon of classic films I kept noticing the MGM lion roaring before the opening credits. The lion has always been somewhat comforting to me since it reminds me of my childhood. As well as how I was somewhat obsessed with lions. And by obsessed, I mean I would wear a lion costume everyday and lay in a pride of 10 or so stuffed lions as I watched movies. I won't be surprised if I tried to hunt down my younger brother as if he was an antelope at the watering hole.

So yeah... I don't know how to use my parent's scanner... so I just took a photo of the photo with Photobooth.

(With my grandmother and my little brother)


Anyways, I decided to do some research on the MGM lion, the lion that people tend to not give that much thought about. Apparently, since 1924 (when the studio was formed by the merger of Samuel Goldwyn's studio with Marcus Loew's Metro Pictures and Louis B. Mayer's company), there have been around five different lions used for the MGM logo. There was on lion named Tanner that was used in all the Technicolor films and MGM cartoons (including the Tom and Jerry series), and in use on the studio logo for 22 years. However, when the MGM animation department—which had closed in 1958—re-opened with the Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry shorts in 1963. These shorts used Tanner in the opening sequence rather than the current lion, which had already been adapted onto the studio logo and the 1961-63 Gene Deitch cartoon logos.

The five logos:

Logo 1: 1924-1928


"Howard Dietz designed the original logo which was used by the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation studio from 1916 to 1924. The first Goldwyn Pictures Corporation film to feature Leo the Lion's roar was Polly of the Circus. Goldwyn Pictures Corporation was ultimately absorbed into the partnership that formed MGM, and the first MGM film that used the logo was He Who Gets Slapped). Dietz stated that he decided to use a lion as the studio's mascot as a tribute to his alma mater Columbia University, whose athletic teams' nickname is the Lions; he further added that the inspiration for making the lion roar was Columbia's fight song "Roar, Lion, Roar". Slats was trained by Volney Phifer to growl rather than roar, and for the next couple of years, the lion would tour with MGM promoters to signify the studio's launch."

Logo 2: 1928-1956


"The second lion that replaced Slats. Jackie looked almost identical to Slats, his predecessor. She was also the first MGM lion whose roar was heard by audiences of the silent film era, via a gramophone record. Jackie growled softly; this was followed by a louder growl, a brief pause, and then a final growl, before looking off to one side. Jackie appeared on all black and white MGM films (1928–1956) and MGM's Happy Harmonies cartoons (1934–1938), as well as the sepia-tinted opening credits of The Wizard of Oz. Despite Jackie's "official" introduction in 1928, the lion had been used on three earlier films: Greed, Ben-Hur, and Flesh and the Devil. The Color variant is ultra rare and can be found on: March of the Wooden Soldiers)."


"Two two-strip Technicolor variations of the MGM logo were created for the first MGM color films, with two different lions being used. This is depicted in the still on the right featuring the second lion from the 1932 feature Roast Beef and Movies. This logo lasted until 1934, when a colorized (two-strip) version of the black and white Jackie logo was introduced. This was short-lived, as production was switched to full three-strip Technicolor filming shortly afterwards."

Logo 3: 1934-1956


"MGM began producing full three-strip Technicolor films in 1934, and the logo was slightly modified for color. Tanner was used on all Technicolor MGM films and cartoons. Tanner, whose first appearance was before a Happy Harmonies short was in use as Leo the Lion for 22 years, second only to the current lion (who has been retained for 51 years). It is the Tanner version of the logo that was the most frequently used version throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood as color became the norm. The MGM full three-strip Technicolor short Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove features an extended longer version of Tanner roaring a WHOPPING four times."

Logo 4: 1956-1958

"Bob" or "Jackie 2"

"The fourth lion was more heavily maned than any of the predecessors and the current lion. Two different versions of this logo were used; one with the lion roaring once toward the right of the screen & then roaring at the camera, another version had the lion roaring just twice toward the right of the screen. This logo would have either a black or blue background.This logo is also in black & white. Two of this lion's appearances include in the films The Opposite Sex and The Wings of Eagles."

Logo 5: 1957-present


"The fifth lion was purchased from a famous animal dealer named Henry Trefflich. He had a smaller mane than any of the previous lions. This lion was used on all MGM films from circa 1957 to 1983 and Tom and Jerry cartoons directed by Gene Deitch, 1961. It was during the period 1957-1960 that MGM used two variants of the logo featuring Leo the lion: the standard version is still used to this day, and features the lion roaring twice; the extended version features the lion roaring three times. Although the logo was in use for MGM films during 1963 and 1967, the opening sequence for the third series of Tom and Jerry featured Tanner. MGM's three Camera 65/Ultra Panavision films, Raintree County, Mutiny on the Bountyand Ben-Hur utilized a resized still-frame of the logo, with the lion roar track added to the backing track. However, Ben-Hur did not include the roar; instead, the film score continued underneath the still-frame of the logo. A special black and white version was created for Jailhouse Rock, and was utilized again in 1982 for the Columbia Pictures film Annie during an excerpt from MGM's 1936 film, Camille, replacing the 1928-1938 logo featuring Jackie (which had originally appeared on Camille)."

(My favorite one)

"MGM was revamped in 1968 with a new logo, dubbed "the stylized lion". This particular logo was very short-lived, and somewhat unpopular; the still-frame image (with no roar) was seen on only three MGM films, Grand Prix, The Subject Was Roses, and 2001: A Space Odyssey before the company reverted to the original logo. The logo was revised once again in 2008, with the gold ribbon and drama mask below Leo remade in a more brilliant gold color. MGM had been using a similar logo in print for several years beforehand. The first film to use the new revised logo is the 22nd James Bond film Quantum of Solace."

Sorry for the long, hefty read. Ha.

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