The logo was first designed for Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, in 1916 by the Paramount Studios art director Lionel S. Reiss. Howard Deitz, a Publicity Executive, chose to use a lion as the studio’smascot, paying tribute to his alma mater, Columbia University. The inspiration was the school’s fight song “Roar, Lion, Roar”. Mr. Deitz is also credited for writing our motto “Ars Gratia Artis”, Latin meaning “Art for Art’s Sake”. “Slats” was the first lion used on Goldwyn Pictures logo from 1917 until 1924, first appearing on the 1917 release “Polly of the Circus”.
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 (although two other lions were used for MGM's two-strip Technicolor films in the late 1920s and early '30s). These lions include Tanner, and Leo, the current (and officially seventh) lion. Tanner was used on all Technicolor films and MGM cartoons (including the Tom and Jerry series), and in use on the studio logo for 22 years (Leo has been in use since 1957, a total of 56 years and counting). However, when the MGM animation department, which had closed in 1958, reopened with the Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry shorts in 1963, these shorts used Tanner in the opening sequence rather than Leo, who had already been adapted onto the studio logo and the Gene Deitch-directed Tom and Jerry cartoons from 1960-62.
“Leo’s” voice, which was one of the first logo sound tracks to actually be trade marked. And to this day is still one of the most recognized logo sounds, perhaps second only to the NBC Chimes. In 1982 the studio was producing “Poltergeist”, at which time “Leo’s” roar was still only a mono audio track. Mark Mangini, a member of the sound crew, had recorded animal sounds, including lions, for use in the film itself. These raw elements were altered to create the creature sound effects in the film.
However while working on the mix, Mark asked Steven Spielberg, if he would like to use the stereo lion sounds he recorded in order to make a new roar for the logo. Steven gave the OK and upon the release of the film, “Leo” was now being heard in stereo. In 1995, Mark was brought back and utilizing the same audio elements used from 1982, re-created “Leo’s” roar in 5.1 surround sound.
films, the most well known is “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1968.
No one is really sure if the lion purchased from Henry Treffich, an animal importer and dealer, was actually named “Leo”. However, that was the name that stuck, “Leo The Lion”.
In addition to being used as the MGM lion, Leo also appeared in Tarzan movies starring Mike Henry and the television series that starred Ron Ely, in addition to other productions such as the religious epic King of Kings (1961), Zebra in the Kitchen (1965), Fluffy (1965) and Napoleon and Samantha (1972); as well as a memorable TV commercial for Dreyfus Investments in 1966.
Two different versions of this logo were used: an "extended" version, with the lion roaring three times with extra head glances (used from 1957–1960), and the "standard" version, with the lion roaring twice (used since 1960). However, in the Chuck Jones- directed Tom and Jerry cartoons released between 1963 and 1967, Tanner was used in the opening sequence instead of Leo. Three MGM films, Raintree County (1957), Ben- Hur (1959), and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), utilized a still-frame variation of this logo, with the lion's roar added to the backing track. (Ben-Hur, however, did not include the roar; instead, the film score continued underneath the still-frame of the logo). This logo would also appear on black-and-white films, such as Jailhouse Rock (1957).
appear on three earlier films, “Greed” (1924), “Ben Hur” (1925) and “Flesh and the Devil” (1926). The most famous MGM title he appeared on was “The Wizard Of Oz” in 1939.
However that was not to be “Jackie’s” most significant contribution to history. He was the first of our lions to be heard by an audience, via a gramophone recording, on July 31, 1928 on “White Shadow Of The Seven Seas”, the first sounded MGM production.. Jackie growled softly; this was followed by a louder roar, a brief pause, and then a final growl, before he looked off to the right of the screen. In the early years that this logo was used (1928–c.1932), there was a slightly extended version of the logo wherein, after roaring, the lion looked off to the right and returned his gaze to the front seconds later. Jackie appeared on all black-and-white MGM films from 1928–1956, as well as the sepia-tinted opening credits of The Wizard of Oz (1939).
He also appeared before MGM's black-and-white cartoons, such as the Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper series produced for MGM by the short-lived Ub Iwerks Studio, as well as the Captain and the Kids cartoons produced by MGM in 1938 and 1939. A colorized variation of the logo can be found on the colorized version of Babes in Toyland (1934), also known as March of the Wooden Soldiers; an animated version (done via rotoscope) appeared on the 1939 Captain and the Kids cartoon Petunia Natural Park. Jackie died on February 26, 1952. He would later make a comeback in
Jackie was the second lion used for the MGM logo. He was selected because he was a look a like for “Slats”. “Jackie” was born circa 1915 and was captured as a cub in the Nubian dessert. He spent much of his life in Hollywood as a performer in jungle pictures, eventually chosen to appear on the MGM logo.
It is believed that it is “Jackie” in the photograph of a lion being filmed and recorded hanging in the halls of MGM. Before his official introduction he did
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3. Because he survived a two train wrecks, an earthquake, a boat sinking, an explosion at the studio, and a plane crash in Arizona.
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Comments from Our Readers
I'm just taking a stab at this. The clothes and camera equipment look older than 1957 so i wouldn't be surprised if it's a totally different lion! Thanks for the quiz.
***** What a nice respite from a rainy on off day in Michigan -- looking at pictures of the MGM lion.
***** I get goosebumps when I see the Lion roar. The movies were really good.
***** This picture really brings back many, memories of sitting in a movie theatre and waiting for the movie to start with the roar of the good old MGM lion!!!!!!!!! Thanks, Fearless Leader.
***** I recognized the MGM lion right off, so the main issue was determining the date of the photo. I google-imaged "mgm lion filming" and your image (flopped L-R) came up, and eventually by hovering over each image, I found the 1924 date in a filename. Googling "MGM lion lucky" turned up the story of Jackie, along with the later dates that Jackie was used.
***** Thanks for the opportunity to learn something I would never have thought about researching.
***** Personal Note: Slats died in 1936; his hide is currently on display at the McPherson Museum in McPherson, Kansas. - I grew up 30 miles from McPherson in Hutchinson. Never knew the MGM lion skin was so close!
***** Regarding "Lucky" - well as the claim goes - "A cat has nine lives". So, Jackie was probably just making the most of all of them. ;)
***** I’ve been trying to think of an alliterative response with lots of L’s, but I can’t. I think Leo/Jackie hung out with the wrong crowd.
N.B. Lucky lion, LOL! - Q. Gen.
These two Engineers, Record Pictures and Sound, Needed to keep MGM Pictures rolling, Finding new material when ever thy found.
The probable name of the one with the mane, Will remain to All, Of those watching Lion flicks, As Jackie of sound and picture.
Jackie was truly lucky! Living thru an earthquake, Surviving a boat sinking, Blown up in an explosion, Plane crash, Stranded in wilderness. If not lucky - certainly Plucky.
Robert Edward and Donald McKenna Quiz Poets Laureate
***** There was a young lion named Jackie Who wound up incredibly lucky He used up six lives Many things he survived And he even appeared in the movies!
With homage to Robert Edward and Donald McKenna Quiz Poets Laureate
Slats (1917–1928) Slats was the first lion used for the newly-formed studio. Born at the Dublin Zoo in 1919 and originally named Cairbre, Slats was used on all black-and- white MGM films between 1924 and 1928. The original logo was designed by Howard Dietz and used by the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation studio from 1917 to 1924 (see left). The first Goldwyn Pictures film to feature Slats the Lion was Polly of the Circus (1917). Goldwyn Pictures was ultimately absorbed into the partnership that formed MGM, and the first MGM film that used the logo was He Who Gets Slapped (1924) starring Lon Chaney.
This week's quiz photo shows the 1927 recording of the roar of Jackie, (aka Leo the Lion), which would become the trademark of all Metro Goldwyn Meyer movies Hollywood.
Goldwyn Pictures lion logo (used from 1917– 1924), which was later utilized for MGM.
“Slats” was trained to roar on cue by Volney Phifer, Hollywood’s premier animal trainer and toured the world to signify MGM’s launch. However, unlike his successors, Slats did not do anything but look around in the logo (as did the Goldwyn Pictures lion).
Slats died in 1936. By that time Mr. Phifer had retired to his farm in Gillette, New Jersey, where he boarded animals used on Broadway. Upon “Slats’” death he was buried on the farm, a small blank block of granite marked the grave. Additionally, Mr. Phifer planted a pine tree directly over the grave, insisting that it’s roots would “hold down the lion’s spirit”, which is a part of a secret of European wisdom. Apparently that tree still stands today, however the granite marker was removed a long time ago. It has also been claimed that his hide is currently on display at the McPherson Museum in McPherson, Kansas, but this has never been proven.
Jackie (aka Leo)
(Far left) Slats MGM publcity shot; (Left) Slats(?) as he appears in the McPherson Mueum in McPherson, KS.
the film Hearts of the West (1975).
Interestingly, in the early 1930s, MGM reissued some of its earlier silent films with soundtracks containing recorded music and sound effects. Among the films reissued in this manner were Greed (1924), Ben-Hur (1925) and Flesh and the Devil (1926). For these sound reissues, Jackie was used instead of Slats, causing some film authorities to assume that the lion had been in use before 1928. In addition to appearing in the MGM logo,
Recording Jackie's roar.
Jackie appeared in over a hundred films, including the Tarzan movies that starred Johnny Weissmuller. Jackie also appeared with an apprehensive Greta Garbo in a well-known 1920s publicity still.
Samuel Goldwyn selected Leo to represent Goldwyn Company as its trademark when he saw the cub developed into a handsome animal. It was then when Leo retired from his acting career and began to appear on the MGM logo.
Hollywood's premier animal trainer Volney Phifer never thought that he would become inseparable with the cub he found in Port Sudan, Africa. Leo (Jackie) was the straggliest lion Phifer had ever laid eyes on.
Leo never let me down, said Phifer.While touring the globe for MGM studios, Leo earned a reputation of being a cat with nine lives: he survived two train wrecks, a flood in Mississippi, an earthquake in California, a fire and a plane crash.
Greta Garbo poses for publicity still with Jackie.
Jackie and trainer (probably Volney Phifer).
Telly and Coffee
MGM began experiments with two-color short subjects in 1927 and animated cartoons in 1930. Two two-strip Technicolor variations of the MGM logo were created, with two different lions being used. The first lion (referred to as "Telly") appeared on all color MGM movies until 1932. The second lion (referred to as "Coffee") made his debut in 1932, appearing on color films until 1934 (and 1935 for the Happy Harmonies shorts), when production was switched to full three-strip Technicolor filming. However neither are generally considered to be one of the five “official” logo lions. The Cat and the Fiddle (1934) had brief
One of the two lions (referred to as "Coffee") used for Technicolor test logos on early MGM color productions (1932–1935).
color sequences, but was otherwise in black-and-white (including its opening credits), so it used Jackie instead of "Coffee". (The Cat and the Fiddle however, showed its The End title card against a Technicolor background.) An extended version of the logo featuring "Coffee" appeared in the 1932 short Wild People. This variation features the lion roaring three times, rather than just twice..
As “The Golden Age Of Hollywood” emerged, the third MGM lion was introduced, “Tanner” in 1934. He would have the second longest reign, lasting 22 years. Often described as the most “angry” lion, “Tanner” snarled more then any of the others.
MGM began producing full three-strip Technicolor films in 1934. Tanner was used on all Technicolor MGM films (1934–1956) and cartoons (late 1935– 1958, 1963-1967). “Tanner” first
appeared before “Happy Harmonies”, starting in 1934, while his first feature film was “Sweethearts” in 1938.The Wizard of Oz (1939) had the Oz scenes in color, but it had the opening and closing credits (and the Kansas scenes) in sepia-toned black-and-white, so it used Jackie instead of Tanner. Third Dimensional Murder (1941) was shot in 3-D and in Technicolor, but it had the opening credits in black-and-white, so it also used Jackie instead of Tanner. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) and The Secret Garden (1949) both had brief color sequences, but were otherwise in black-and-white (including their opening credits), so they used Jackie instead of Tanner as well. (The Secret Garden, however, showed its The End title card and the cast list against a Technicolor background.)
Tanner was MGM's third longest-lived lion to be used (for a total of 22 years), after Jackie (who was used for a total of 28 years) and the current lion (who has been retained for 56 years). It is this version of the logo that was the most frequently used version throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood, although color did not really become the norm until the 1960s, and even then, many movies were still being made in black- and-white. An extended version of this logo appeared on the short Star Night at the Coconut Grove and early James A. Fitzpatrick Traveltalks color shorts. This version features Tanner roaring as usual, but lasts a few seconds longer to feature two additional roars from the lion.
The sixth lion, officially named George, was introduced in 1956, and appeared more heavily maned than any of the predecessors and the current lion. He appeared on the logo for about 2 years. Perhaps the most famous of which was “The Wings of Eagles”, directed by John Ford, staring John Wayne and Maureen
On September 16, 1927, Martin “Marty” Jenson, a pilot hired to ferry Jackie cross- country, took off from Camp Kearny Airfield, near San Diego in a B-1 Brougham airplane, a modified version of Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit Of St. Louis”. Installed behind the pilot’s seat was a glass enclosed iron bar cage. However, the plane was over weight with the 350-pound cat aboard and went down in the mountains of northern Arizona, neither Marty or “Jackie” was seriously injured.
However, in need of help, Marty left “Jackie” with sandwiches, milk and water as he spent days walking until coming across ranch cowhands. While thin and weak, “Jackie” was returned to MGM’s handlers and was well cared for the rest of his life. In 1931 he made his farewell tour, after which he retired, living out his life at the Philadelphia Zoo. While he appeared ferocious on screen, his keepers at the zoo described him as having a very gentle spirit. Having suffered from a heart ailment for several months, “Jackie” passed away on February 26, 1935, found by his keeper, John McCullen. Leo died at the age of twenty-three, an old age for a lion, leaving many descendants. His body rests on Phifer's farm, although some say he is the lion whose hide appears in the McPherson musum.
O’Hara. No reason has been found as to why “George” replaced “Tanner” or why he only lasted for such a brief amount of time.
Two different versions of this logo were used; one with the lion roaring toward the right of the screen and then roaring at the camera, and another with the lion roaring twice toward the right of the screen. This logo would have either a black or dark brownish/grayish background; a blue background variant has been spotted on The Wings of Eagles (1957). This logo would also appear on black-and-white movies. From 1957 to 1958, this lion was used in tandem with the current lion.
Leo, the seventh lion, is MGM's longest- lived lion, having appeared on most MGM films since 1957. He has a smaller mane than any of the other lions because he was at a very young age compared to his predecessors when his roaring was filmed. Despite a brief period between 1966-68, is still the MGM mascot. During those two years the “medallion” or “stylized” logo was introduced, used on only three