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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Films, and Leo the Lion

Leo, the lion who growls in salutation at the commencement of every Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, has other poses and other greetings; especially gay and debonair as he is depicted on all the Company’s advertising press-books, foreign mailing and news sheets that are forwarded to all parts of the world. This pose, however, is not generally familiar to the public at large. Leo bowed-in Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Myrna Loy in a caricature drawing which showed him, dressed in evening clothes, a crown on his noble head, bending low over the hands of the three beautiful stars with whom, as with numerous others, he graciously shared the honors of his studio. Cecil B. de Mille used Leo in scenes for “The King of Kings,” and his career on the screen dated from that picture. (As did those of many other actors, both human and animal!)

The lion used in that original screen shot was really named Leo. He died in 1934, deeply regretted after many years in the movies. He was always admired for his magnificent head and mane and was the largest male African lion in Gay’s Lion Farm, surely a distinction in itself, for at Gay’s unique reservation, one of Southern California’s most fascinating enterprises, may be found only the finest specimens of this royal beast.

The idea of having the lion as a symbol was first suggested by Howard Dietz, who was a member of the Philip Goodman advertising agency, then handling some of the Samuel Goldwyn Studios accounts. At that time, 1916, he was a recent graduate of Columbia University so he naturally thought of a lion. An artist made a quick sketch, Dietz added the Latin inscription and the apt symbol was immediately approved by Samuel Goldwyn himself. The insigne lasted through the transition era when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was formed but a change was later made which showed Leo, side view, pacing along. This newer trademark was used on letterheads and studio publicity instead of the beast ringed about with film. The Latin inscription, ARS GRATIA ARTIS – Art for the sake of art – very expressively sums up the guiding principles and excellent standards that have justly made the MGM trademark a guarantee of splendid motion pictures.

Films Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Films

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