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The Fascinating Story Behind The Famous Lion Of MGM

Any one will recognize this famous lion as the logo for movie studio MGM. Some people even know that his name is Leo. But apparently, this cat has a history as interesting as any Hollywood star. The living logo of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is one of the most iconic images in the world, and as such, it's built up quite a bit of mystery and folklore around these massively, undeniably beautiful creatures. Via: Urban Ghosts


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  • Look closely – and quickly – at the lion and you’ll notice that there are some that look a little bit different, and that’s for good reason. There’s been a few different lions that have served as the MGM logo over the years, beginning with Slats in 1917.

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    Via MGM

    Slats was the first official MGM lion, named Leo for marketing purposes. He came from Dublin, but one thing that's a little unclear is why MGM chose the king of the beasts for their logo. One story says that their designer, Howard Dietz, chose a lion as a nod to the mascot of his alma mater, Columbia University. Another says that it came from co-founder Marcus Loew, whose last name was associated with the German for lion. Either way, Slats went to America and he became famous. Slats retired in 1928, but died in 1936 and was buried at the home of his trainer, who was heartbroken over the big cat's passing.


  • Jackie took over at the face of MGM, and he’s the one that gave the logo another bit of its magic – his voice.

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    Via MGM

    With the advent of sound that went along with the moving pictures of film, Jackie wasn't just a pretty face, but a big roar, too. And actually, if you listen to his trainer, Jackie wasn't even a pretty face – but with the list of accidents and disasters he survived (including a plane crash and two train crashes), he's allowed to be a little less than photogenic. Ultimately, Jackie, the good-hearted lion who reportedly had a bit of a soft spot for kittens, retired in 1931 and died in 1935.



  • Tanner took over in 1934, and turned the mantle over to George in 1956.

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    Via MGM

    George only lasted 2 years as the official MGM lion, and in 1957 (there's a bit of an overlap), the MGM lion you still see at the beginning of films today was not only purchased and put into the logo, but also into film.


  • The lion you see at the beginning of MGM films from 1957 onward is the same lion that you’ll see if you watch the old Tarzan films.

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    Via MGM

    Known as Leo both officially and unofficially, you'll get to see him do some growing up over the years. Early shots of Leo show that he's much, much smaller than his predecessors.


  • Not surprisingly, the lions have attained something of a cult status and, much like what goes along with being a human movie star, they’ve been subject to their own reported difficulties and scandals.

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    There's an old urban legend that says that the original MGM lion, presumably Slats, went a bit berserk when they were trying to get him to film the clip of the logo. Rumor had it that he killed his trainer and two other people on set after the filming was finished, but it's absolutely not true.

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