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Hold that lion: a pictorial history of the MGM logo

How is it that MGM decided to put a lion on its payroll and act as studio mascot and corporate logo centerpiece? "Löwe" is German for "lion" and many are quick to credit studio co-founder Marcus Loew with the idea. Loew's Metro Pictures merged with Samuel Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer, in 1924 to form M.G.M. One problem: Goldwyn Pictures had been using a lion in its logo since 1917, years before the consolidation.

The actual identity of the logo's original designer also remains a mystery. Depending on which Wikipedia page you believe, the roaring emblem was created by either Paramount Art Director, Lionel S. Kress or Hollywood publicist, Howard Dietz. There must be better documentation than what's online -- there always is. Can anyone help a brother out?

Throughout the years M.G.M. has gone through a total of 7 lions. What follows is in a chronolionogical order. Most of these -- particularly the oddball idents sprinkled throughout -- are from my personal stock. Thanks to Moviepedia and Wikipedia for helping to fill in a few missing cats.

AND GIVE UP A HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROAR FOR MY PARDNER AND PAL, MATTHEW LICKONA!

Slats (1917 - 1928)

Telly (1928-1930)

Coffy (1932)

Jackie, the talking lion, his roar was the first heard by audiences (1928–1956)

Lions in the Community (1935)

None

None

None

Tanner, the Technicolor Lion (1935-1956)

George (1956-1958)

George's logo shoot took place on one of the lion's 'bad mane' days. He only lasted two years. Thanks to Widescreen Museum for the following pair of rare, behind-the-scenes photos of an M.G.M. logo shoot.

Fearing that he might become typecast, and desperately in need of a stretch, MGM released George from his contract long enough to appear in this 1961 commercial for the Dreyfus Fund.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIBItnXC_Gg

Leo (1957-Present)

Leo receives a graphic makeover (1966-1968).

Fortunately, the stylized lion opened only two pictures: Grand Prix and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The SCTV-inspired comedy, The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (1983), begins with a behind-the-scenes parody of a logo shoot.

In 1998, after 75 years of loyal service, MGM rewarded Leo with his own Saturday morning kid's show, The Lionhearts.

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How is it that MGM decided to put a lion on its payroll and act as studio mascot and corporate logo centerpiece? "Löwe" is German for "lion" and many are quick to credit studio co-founder Marcus Loew with the idea. Loew's Metro Pictures merged with Samuel Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer, in 1924 to form M.G.M. One problem: Goldwyn Pictures had been using a lion in its logo since 1917, years before the consolidation.

The actual identity of the logo's original designer also remains a mystery. Depending on which Wikipedia page you believe, the roaring emblem was created by either Paramount Art Director, Lionel S. Kress or Hollywood publicist, Howard Dietz. There must be better documentation than what's online -- there always is. Can anyone help a brother out?

Throughout the years M.G.M. has gone through a total of 7 lions. What follows is in a chronolionogical order. Most of these -- particularly the oddball idents sprinkled throughout -- are from my personal stock. Thanks to Moviepedia and Wikipedia for helping to fill in a few missing cats.

AND GIVE UP A HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROAR FOR MY PARDNER AND PAL, MATTHEW LICKONA!

Slats (1917 - 1928)

Telly (1928-1930)

Coffy (1932)

Jackie, the talking lion, his roar was the first heard by audiences (1928–1956)

Lions in the Community (1935)

None

None

None

Tanner, the Technicolor Lion (1935-1956)

George (1956-1958)

George's logo shoot took place on one of the lion's 'bad mane' days. He only lasted two years. Thanks to Widescreen Museum for the following pair of rare, behind-the-scenes photos of an M.G.M. logo shoot.

Fearing that he might become typecast, and desperately in need of a stretch, MGM released George from his contract long enough to appear in this 1961 commercial for the Dreyfus Fund.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIBItnXC_Gg

Leo (1957-Present)

Leo receives a graphic makeover (1966-1968).

Fortunately, the stylized lion opened only two pictures: Grand Prix and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The SCTV-inspired comedy, The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (1983), begins with a behind-the-scenes parody of a logo shoot.

In 1998, after 75 years of loyal service, MGM rewarded Leo with his own Saturday morning kid's show, The Lionhearts.

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Comments
5

Near the climax of Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie" (1976), the film is rushed to the premiere, the house lights dim, the image of Sid Caesar as the Studio Chief appears on the screen in profile.

Sid turns to the camera and, in a nod to Leo, lets out a cat like "Meow"...

June 27, 2013

"Raisinettes!"

June 27, 2013

Really enjoyed this! What do you know about the masks underneath the lions? It looks like they have also evolved.

June 28, 2013

Hey, Scott Marks, can you do "The Lady With The Torch: a pictorial history of the Columbia logo"?

July 13, 2013

The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (1983)

Great Pic, Eey Hosers!

July 13, 2013

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