Hollywood Lost and Found - Studio Logos - Paramount
Hollywood Lost and Found

Everything You Wanted To Know About
American Film Company Logos
But Were Afraid To Ask

by Rick Mitchell

Page 5 - Paramount

The Paramount mountain is the oldest surviving American film company logo. It was selected by W.W. Hodkinson as the symbol of the national distribution company he planned to put together in 1914 and contrary to reports that have appeared elsewhere, was not based on either the Matterhorn or California's Mount Hood, Hodkinson being from Salt Lake City. Although Hodkinson was "removed" from the company in 1916 by Adolph Zukor, the logo remained.

Exactly when the logo appeared by itself' on a Paramount film is difficult to say since their silent films of the Teens and Twenties continued the practice of opening with "Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky Present..." with the logo in a corner of the main title card. The earliest film the author has seen the full logo on is "Wings" (1927) and it is definitely on all the early sound Paramount films the author has seen.

This version is an almost charcoal rendering of the mountain peak with moving dark gray clouds in the background and the ring of stars and superimposed credit "A Paramount Picture." Unlike most logos which faded in and out, the Paramount logo usually dissolved to the main title card and would be dissolved to after the "end" title card of the film. The logo was photographed in two-color Technicolor for "Redskin" (1929) and a three-strip version with a lighter background was done for the company's initial three-strip films of the late Thirties. In the early Forties, a special color version was done in which yellow rays of sunlight were seen falling through a ring of dusky clouds to light the top of the mountain. In the late Forties, they reverted back to the Thirties version of the gray peak backed by static gray clouds.

The Paramount logo was completely redesigned late in 1953 for the studio’s proposed 1.66:1 wide screen projection format. A new matte painting by staff artist Jan Domela gave a wider and more colorful view of the mountain and the land around it. This version would be used for its VistaVision productions and variations made for its Technirama, Panavision, and Techniscope releases of the Sixties. Between 1954 and 1956 most VistaVision films also had a fanfare over the Paramount and VistaVision logos, written by either Leith Stevens or Lyn Murray.

After the company was purchased by Gulf + Western in 1966, the "A Paramount Picture" or "A Paramount Release" titles would be dropped for simply "Paramount-A Gulf + Western Company", though film buff Steven Spielberg would restore "A Paramount Picture" for the opening of his three Indiana Jones films which would also adroitly match dissolve from the logo to a mountain peak shaped subject. In the late Sixties, in keeping with the trend toward stylized logos, the matte painting would dissolve to a stylized version against a blue background.

In 1987, a new version was done by Apogee, Inc., mastered in the VistaVision format. It involved a camera move over a miniature landscape toward the mountain with a ring of computer generated stars forming around it. For the company’s unofficial 90th birthday (it varies between dating its origins from the founding of Zukor’s Famous Players Company in 1912 to the founding of Paramount in 1914), a new CGI version was done which shows stars falling from the sky to form a ring around a cloud wreathed mountain peak.

Given the nature of the comic talent it had under contract, it's not surprising that the Paramount logo has probably been spoofed more than any other campany's. For example, in "Road To Utopia" (1945), Bob Hope, when commenting on the Alaskan scenery, says "Look at all that bread-and-butter" and around a mountain peak appears a ring of stars and "Paramount Pictures", while in "The Geisha Boy" (1958), Jerry Lewis sees a ring of stars around Japan's Mount Fujiyama. Additionally, a special version of the logo, primarily lit in red and with the peak looking more like Mount Sinai, was done for "The Ten Commandments" (1956) and was also used to open the special ten minute trailer De Mille did at the time of the film's release.

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