Hollywood Lost and Found - Studio Logos - Columbia
Hollywood Lost and Found

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

by Rick Mitchell

Page 7 - Columbia

The rationale behind the Columbia logo is obvious, but the choice of that name is conspicuously absent from books about the company. The earliest version of the logo that the author has seen is on a print of Frank Capra's first film for the company, "That Certain Thing" (1928) which had the head of Lady Liberty with the torch held aloft as the center of a medallion with "A Columbia Picture" in a ring around it, a logo that can be found in advertising into the Thirties.

A different logo can be found on the company's early sound films: a somewhat garish art deco rendering with "A Columbia Picture" in a semicircle above Miss Liberty and with flickering hand drawn rays from her torch. This was replaced in 1934 by the more familiar and refined matte painting, the lady with the torch on a pedestal, behind her fluffy clouds and "Columbia" as if chiseled from stone. Reportedly, the model for this version was actress Evelyn Venable, wife of cinematographer Hal Mohr, who was also the model for the Blue Fairy in "Pinocchio." A color version of this logo was done in 1943 when Columbia made its first three-strip Technicolor film "Desperados." In 1953 the logo was redesigned to fit better into Columbia's chosen 1.85:1 "wide screen" projection aspect ratio, and a CinemaScope version done in 1954, its use beginning with "The Violent Men."

Beginning in 1976, new corporate owners began playing around with the logo. First, there was a stylized rendering of the old logo, minus the company name, with the camera zooming into the torch and pulling back to a stylized representation of a torch with "Columbia Pictures" under it. In 1980 this was modified to have the pullback end in another stylized representation of the old logo with "Columbia Pictures" at the bottom.

Finally, in 1992, a new matte painting was done, involving a pullback from the torch to the full statue, against a cloud background and the legend "Columbia." In 1999, as part of the company’s 75th anniversary celebration, repertory v.p. Michael Schlesinger had a special logo incorporating all the variations made up but it was never appended to any film.

Variations of the Columbia logo: For "The Devil At 4 O'clock" (1961), the statue and letters were matted over the main title background, the volcano; this is the only instance the author is aware of this being done on a Columbia picture. For "Bye, Bye, Birdie" (1963), the film's title was formed out of the torch flame. For "The Mouse That Roared" (1959), a live action version of the logo was created so that Miss Liberty could be scared off by a mouse, and for "Cat Ballou" (1965), a cartoon version was done with Miss Liberty turning into a gun-toting cowgirl. A rather strange looking matte painting version was filmed in 65mm for "Lawrence Of Arabia" (1962).

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