MGM Lion: The Iconic Roar of Hollywood History

The MGM lion logo, symbolizing Hollywood's Golden Age, evolved from its 1916 creation by Howard Dietz into a globally recognized cinema icon.

History of the MGM Lion

The MGM lion logo is one of cinema’s most iconic images, representing the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio.

From its inception to its current use, the logo has seen various lions and evolved into a symbol of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Origins and Evolution

The MGM logo was created by ad man Howard Dietz in 1916 as a tribute to his alma mater, Columbia University, using the lion to represent the Columbia Lions.

The first lion, named Slats, was born at the Dublin Zoo and introduced in Goldwyn Pictures Corporation’s logo before MGM was officially formed in 1924.

The Lions Behind the Logo

Over the years, several lions have served as the face of MGM. Slats was followed by Jackie, the first lion to roar, whose growl was accompanied by the sound of a gramophone record.

Subsequent lions, including Tanner and other lesser-known lions, added depth to the logo’s presence.

Animal trainers like Volney Phifer ensured the lions’ wellbeing during their stint as part of the logo’s history.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

The MGM lion is more than just a trademark; it’s a piece of cinematic history.

This roaring lion signifies the start of a high-quality MGM film and has come to symbolize the grandeur of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Over the decades, the lion’s image on the silver screen has become one of the most recognizable symbols in entertainment, endearing itself to generations of movie-goers.

MGM Lion in Media and Entertainment

The majestic MGM lion roars proudly, its mane flowing in the wind, as it stands on a rocky ledge overlooking a grand and bustling cityscape

The MGM Lion is not just a logo; it’s an iconic symbol in media and entertainment, with a rich history in film, branding, and cultural influence that extends beyond the silver screen.

Film and Television Appearances

Leo the Lion has been synonymous with MGM since its inception.

It has featured in the distinctive opening credits of countless MGM films, such as the well-known classics “The Wizard of Oz” and “Greta Garbo”.

This lion roar, recorded for the first time during the production of MGM’s first sound film “White Shadows in the South Seas”, marked a significant milestone in cinematic history.

Notably, the lion used during these recordings was Slats, the studio’s original mascot, trained by Volney Phifer, whose roar would add a dramatic flair to the world of film.

A roster of lions has graced the silver screen, including Jackie, the second lion, who piloted through a plane crash with his trainer Mel Koontz and became one of the most visible animal stars in MGM’s branding history.

The MGM lion has also made appearances in various television series and movies outside the MGM brand, such as “The Great Muppet Caper” and was parodied by Bob and Doug McKenzie in “Strange Brew.”

Symbols and Branding

The MGM lion logo was designed by Lionel S. Reiss and is a quintessential representation of Hollywood film studios.

Beyond the movies, this lion mascot has been used as an emblem and a critical part of MGM’s branding strategy.

The lion symbolizes pride and grandeur, echoing MGM’s “Ars gratia artis”, meaning “Art for art’s sake” – a slogan that is as iconic as the lion itself.

The logo initially crafted onto a granite slab, represents MGM’s commitment to high-quality and stellar productions.

Beyond the Movie Screen

The MGM Lion’s cultural reach can be found in many other forms, as seen with the use of the stylized lion in various MGM Resorts International properties.

It has transitioned into an animated form in the popular “Tom and Jerry” cartoons and has its place in the annals of television history – inspiring similar logos like Mimsie the Cat used for MTM Enterprises, the company behind “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Bob Newhart Show”.

The roaring lion even played a role in the filming of the “Aretha Franklin biopic,” where its famous sound was used to set the scene.

Throughout these various media and venues, from the sepia-toned introduction of classic films to the latest ventures into television and other entertainment venues, the MGM lion maintains its status as a prominent pillar of Hollywood’s branding.