Saturday, November 21, 2009

Leo the Lion

In 1916, Goldwyn Pictures first introduced Leo the Lion.

The original logo was designed by Howard Dietz and used by the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation studio from 1916 to 1924. Howard Dietz used a lion as the studio's mascot as a tribute to his alma mater Columbia University, whose althletic teams' nickname is the Lions. He added the lion roar for Columbia's fight song "Roar, Lion, Roar".

The first film to feature the famous Lion was Polly of the Circus (1917).

In 1924, movie theater magnate Marcus Loew bought Metro Pictures Corporation and Goldwyn Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was born.

Since 1924, Leo the Lion has been the mascot for the Hollywood film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

There have actually been five different lions: Slats, Jackie, Tanner, George and Leo.

Slats was the first lion featured for MGM. He was born at Dublin Zoo, Ireland on March 20, 1919. The first MGM film Slats was He Who Gets Slapped (1924). Slats was used on all black and white films between 1924 and 1928 (with three exceptions). Slats died in 1936.

Jackie made her "official" debut in 1928. However, she did appear in the opening credits of Greed (1924), Ben-Hur (1925), and Flesh and the Devil (1926). She is also the first lion's rorar heard by audiences of the silent film era. She appeared in all black and white MGM films from 1928 to 1956. She also appeared in the opening credits of the Wizard of Oz (1939).

Tanner was used on all Technicolor MGM films (1934—1956) and cartoons (late 1935—1958, 1963—1967), except for The Wizard of Oz (1939). Tanner, whose first appearance was before the short subject Star Night at the Coconut Grove (1934) and his first feature film appearance was before Sweethearts (1938). Tanner was Leo the Lion for 22 years, second only to the current Lion. It is Tannerthat was the most frequently used version throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood as color became the norm.

The fourth lion, George, was introduced in mid-1956 and seved only two years. Two of George's appearances include The Opposite Sex (1956) and The Wings of Eagles (1957). From 1957 to 1958, George was used in tandem with the current lion.

Leo, the fifth lion, was purchased from a famous animal dealer named Henry Trefflich and trained by Ralph Helfer. Leo made his debut in 1957 and has been the mascot for 52 years.

After 93 years, the future of Leo the Lion is uncertain. MGM is crumbling under the weight of almost $4 billion in debt, and is up for sale.

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