Hollywood Lost and Found - Studio Logos - MGM
Hollywood Lost and Found

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

by Rick Mitchell

Page 2 - MGM

Arguably the best known is the roaring lion of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which has undergone the second least number of basic changes over the years than any other company's. It was actually designed by composer-publicist Howard Dietz for Goldwyn Pictures in 1918 as a piece of artwork. The author does not know if an action version was ever done for that company, but one was done for the Metro-Goldwyn company after their 1924 merger. This version showed a growling lion double-exposed into the artwork of the loop of film with "Ars Gratia Artis" over the top of the loop in the upper half of the frame and "Metro-Goldwyn" in a scrollwork grill below, all against a black background. The title card of the film itself would read: "Louis B. Mayer presents a Metro-Goldwyn Picture." In 1925 Mayer added his name to that of the corporation and the name officially became "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer."

Although different lion images were double exposed into the loop througout the Thirties, it remained basically the same for years. An audible response from the lion was added in 1928 beginning with "White Shadows On The South Seas," generally more of a purr or soft growl in keeping with the demeanor of the visual lion. (The roaring lion would first appear in the variation of the logo done for MGM's cartoons.) A two-color Technicolor version was done in 1928 for "The Viking," a feature produced by the Technicolor Corporation and distributed by MGM, and a three-strip Technicolor version was done in 1938.

The only significant change in the MGM logo was made in 1953, when it was redone for CinemaScope and 1.75:1 "wide screen". The lion and film loop were made a bit larger to emphasize width and "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" was placed in a semicircle above them. A new, roaring lion was composited into the loop of film. For some reason, a different, light and wilder maned lion was used for the company's 1956 releases before returning the classic image used to this day. For "Poltergeist" (1982), sound designer Mark Mangini created a new lion roar which he enhanced for digital stereo in 1995.

In 1966, new corporate owners had a stylized lion logo designed which was used on corporate advertising and on two 65mm films, "Grand Prix" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968). At the time it was announced that this logo would replace the roaring lion but the hue and cry from MGM buffs and stockholders was so great that the idea was dropped; the roaring lion was even restored to 35mm and 16mm prints of "Grand Prix." When MGM bought United Artists in 1982, the corporate name over the loop of film was changed to MGM/UA Entertainment, and contrary to claims made elsewhere, this version was used on the two James Bond films made at that time, "Octopussy" (1983) and "View To A Kill" (1985). The "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" name was restored after the company’s mid-Eighties corporate changes and probably will be retained on whatever films new owner Sony releases under the name.

Some notable deviations from standard usage of the MGM logo include: a Marx Brothers film in which a closeup of each brother in turn imitating the lion is matted into the loop of film (Harpo is silent, of course); the original American release version of "The Fearless Vampire Killers" (1966), in which the lion sprouts animated blood-dripping vampire fangs; and "Brewster McCloud" (1971), in which the roar is replaced with Rene Auberjonois saying: "I forgot the opening line." For "North By Northwest" (1959), the black background of the logo was replaced with green in keeping with the motif of Saul Bass' main titles; in "Atlantis, The Lost Continent" (1961) "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" appears to have been matted over something else.

For MGM's three Camera 65/Ultra Panavision films, "Raintree County" (1957), "Ben-Hur" (1959), and "Mutiny On The Bounty" (1962), a freeze frame of the CinemaScope version was blown up and used with the lion roar; for "How The West Was Won" and "The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm" (both 1962), an action version was blown up to three-panel Cinerama.

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