FOR all WHO seek knowledge and harbor an abundance of curiosity.
Welcome back everyone, I am Alley Jean and this is my dog Kingsley, and today we are setting the time machine controls for 1928. So let’s go! (sounds of time machine taking off)
So here we are at MGM Studios. (I got in by telling a stage-hand that Kingsley is part of a movie! Shhh!) Beautiful ladies and moving sets are whirling by! I can’t seem to keep my feet on the ground with so much going on! I can feel the glamour, drama, and creative sophistication in the air! Making our way through the wardrobe area is filled with glitter, beads, silk, sparkle, shine, and feather boas! Oh my god, Joan Crawford just walked by me! Wow!
Today is about the iconic branding of MGM Pictures. The original design of the lion logo was made in 1916 by ad executive Howard Dietz. Some say he designed it after the company’s owner Marcus Leow because his name translates to, “lion.” Others say he designed it after his Alma Mater’s lion mascot at Columbia University.
The reason we have traveled to 1928 instead of 1916 is that we are here to watch the recording of Jackie the lion’s roar being recorded, which will be added to the live MGM logo. Jackie is my dog’s favorite actor and I promised him we would see him! Jackie the lion will appear in over a hundred films. In real life Jackie the lion survived a sinking ship, two train wrecks, an earthquake, an explosion in the studio, and a plane crash in Arizona. ” (This cat truly has nine lives!) There will be seven lions used during the hundred years of evolution of the MGM branding. All the lions were known as Leo to the public even though they had their own names. Only the last lion actually was named Leo.
The first distinguishable uniqueness of all the different versions of the MGM logo is not the lion or the obvious play on the acting world, it is actually the title, Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Metro Goldwyn Mayer represents the merger of several picture studios into one powerhouse. Each word is in a different vintage font that represents the personality brought in from the individual picture studios.
The MGM logo has a lot of ornamental symbolism. The serif font shows strength and readability. The film strips wrapping around the prestigious lion in gold to create a high-end feel. The studio offered the motto, “Ars Gratia Artis” which is Latin for “Art for Art’s Sake.” It is a nice addition at the top within the film ribbon. And last, the tribal mask with the heart mouth with ferns around it reminds me of currency. A design you may see on a coin or paper bills. The word TRADEMARK is boldly stamped on the sides of the lion as if its importance is bigger than the lion itself. Being a film studio MGM was one of the first to create a live logo being presented at the beginning of every picture. As a child, I loved how the beginning of “the wizard of oz” soundtrack overlaid the lion’s roar. This logo works so well because it is the perfect introduction to the Hollywood stars that follow. It has an instant connection with the audience and leads them to their journey.
MGM “Leo the Lion” 1928
Kingsley and I make our way through the wardrobe department and sneak all the way over to the Jackie set. The set is boxed in within a tent for trapping the sound. I pull the opening very gently to get a look. There are two men recording. It’s as if they are filming a house cat and not a four hundred pound lion. Jackie is perched upon wooden basket crates in front of a microphone. A sound engineer sits in a chair with headphones just a few feet away from the lion, ready to record. A cameraman also just a few feet away calmly stands behind a movie camera shooting the event. Kingsley is wagging his tail in excitement. Then as I look down at Kingsley I notice that his tail suddenly stops wagging and the famous golden retriever curled lip forms and the hair on his back has risen. I look up at Jackie the lion and see he has locked eyes on Kingsley. A thunderous roar explodes from Jackie causing Kingsley to Scooby-Doo it down the hallway. I’m right behind him running as fast as an olympian. We tear through the wardrobe department with the lion in tow. Shuttering screams erupt. Clothes are flying everywhere. I think I knocked Joan Crawford down. A dress falls upon the lion’s head giving us time to escape out a back door. We didn’t stop running for one second. We get back to the time machine and quickly take off. The things you will do for your pet.
Back to the time machine and set the controls for home. (sounds of blasting off.) Join me next week for another Alley Jean’s Brand Time Machine travel!