Quote of the Day: Leo the Lion

 

We have an audio quote today, which occurs at the start of this short clip from White Shadows in the South Seas, MGM’s first movie with a pre-recorded soundtrack, and the one in which Leo, the MGM Lion, roared for the first time. Here he is on July 31, 1928, speaking for himself:

There have been eight “Leos” and they have introduced MGM films since 1916. The first lion, “Slats,” just glanced around, and said nothing. It wasn’t until twelve years later that the new lion, “Jackie” performed on cue. Only once has the MGM lion actually been named “Leo,” and he’s the current star, and the fellow who’s occupied the throne since he was filmed in 1957. (The studio has referred to all the lions associated with its trademark as “Leo” since the beginning.)

In 1965, MGM had its own “New Coke” moment when it dabbled with a stylized, still graphic of a lion to introduce 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Subject Was Roses. It didn’t seem to quite do the job, though, was swiftly moved aside, and Leo was brought back. Since then, the logo itself has undergone several adjustments, but Leo has remained its centerpiece.

Leo, you’ve introduced me to some of the most enjoyable movie excursions of my life. Thanks for the memories. Long may you continue to roar!

(If you’d like to learn more about each of the MGM lions, Wikipedia has a good rundown.)

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  1. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    That’s a different “Roar” from what I’m used to.  The lion also seems a bit camera-shy :)

    W.S. Van Dyne, the director, did a number of early sound films, including the “Thin Man” movies, and San Francisco.

    • #1
  2. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    That’s a different “Roar” from what I’m used to. The lion also seems a bit camera-shy :)

    W.S. Van Dyne, the director, did a number of early sound films, including the “Thin Man” movies, and San Francisco.

    You might have been a bit camera shy in 1928.  After all, cameras weren’t all that common at the time.

    Love those early movies!

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    A silent movie, with a soundtrack.

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    A silent movie, with a soundtrack.

    Well, I think that, really, the “soundtrack” at the time was a replacement only for “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” sort of thing and didn’t have much to do with dialog (exempting Leo) at all.

     

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    A silent movie, with a soundtrack.

    Well, I think that, really, the “soundtrack” at the time was a replacement only for “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” sort of thing and didn’t have much to do with dialog (exempting Leo) at all.

     

    The word “hello” was apparently spoken, but it seems as though the volume was really low. They did have some sound effects. Most of the cast were from the Marquesas, and most probably spoke Marquesan, with a little French added.

    • #5
  6. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Another brilliant post from @she, the one-woman brilliant post factory!

    The stylized MGM logo at the head of 2001 was a better opening for the film than the lion would have been. Most studios that have changed their logo (as opposed to merely updating it) have reverted to the original branding. Paramount has the mountain; Warners brought back its WB “shield”; Columbia Pictures dropped the Lady with the Torch in the ’70s, and later brought her back. The drums and flourishes monumentality of the 20th Century Fox logo added something to Star Wars. 

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Another brilliant post from @ she, the one-woman brilliant post factory!

    The stylized MGM logo at the head of 2001 was a better opening for the film than the lion would have been. Most studios that have changed their logo (as opposed to merely updating it) have reverted to the original branding. Paramount has the mountain; Warners brought back its WB “shield”; Columbia Pictures dropped the Lady with the Torch in the ’70s, and later brought her back. The drums and flourishes monumentality of the 20th Century Fox logo added something to Star Wars.

    • #7
  8. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Another brilliant post from @ she, the one-woman brilliant post factory!

    Thanks, Gary!  This is what happens when you have no bloody clue what to write about, but you took the day because no-one else did, and you start looking around for some sort of ‘hook.’

    The drums and flourishes monumentality of the 20th Century Fox logo added something to Star Wars.

    Oh, boy howdy.  I never, ever,  see/hear that at the start of any movie without expecting the famous crawl to follow:

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    It’s amazing how quickly movies went from silent to sound. At the end of 1927 there was only one sound feature film, The Jazz Singer. By the beginning of 1929, silents were through; the remaining handful were “burned off” in older, lower class theaters that didn’t have the money to convert to sound. 1928, the year of this film clip, did it all, or almost all. 

    At the beginning of ’28, it was expected that the two types of movies might co-exist for years before, or if, sound took over. They thought of sound roughly the way we think of IMAX, something unusual that would be worth paying a little extra to see. But it didn’t happen that way. Once silents left, they left completely. 

    Something like that happened about 20 years later to “old time” radio, evenings full of radio dramas and comedies. In 1948, the radio networks believed that home entertainment would be split between radio and TV for another ten years. In fact, in other countries the switchover was gradual. But in the booming postwar USA, with money available to buy TVs and equip its stations, traditional evening radio lost out to TV much more quickly. By 1951 it was already obvious that only a token handful of radio programs would survive. 

     

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    It’s amazing how quickly movies went from silent to sound. At the end of 1927 there was only one sound feature film, The Jazz Singer. By the beginning of 1929, silents were through; the remaining handful were “burned off” in older, lower class theaters that didn’t have the money to convert to sound. 1928, the year of this film clip, did it all, or almost all.

    At the beginning of ’28, it was expected that the two types of movies might co-exist for years before, or if, sound took over. They thought of sound roughly the way we think of IMAX, something unusual that would be worth paying a little extra to see. But it didn’t happen that way. Once silents left, they left completely.

    Something like that happened about 20 years later to “old time” radio, evenings full of radio dramas and comedies. In 1948, the radio networks believed that home entertainment would be split between radio and TV for another ten years. In fact, in other countries the switchover was gradual. But in the booming postwar USA, with money available to buy TVs and equip its stations, traditional evening radio lost out to TV much more quickly. By 1951 it was already obvious that only a token handful of radio programs would survive.

     

    There must have been a lot of scripts lying around that suddenly needed dialog added. That must have been interesting.

    • #10
  11. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    The brilliance of John Williams: the Star Wars theme is in the same key as the 20th Century fanfare so that they segue perfectly from one to the other.

    • #11
  12. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Virtually every piece of moviemaking equipment had to be tossed out and replaced that year–cameras, lights (arc lights sputter and hiss; the quiet incandescent ones that replaced them were much hotter), even the buildings (the term “sound stage” didn’t exist until then, for obvious reasons) had to be replaced. Theaters needed new projectors, plus amplifiers and loudspeakers. The only people with expertise and available equipment were the telephone and radio companies, which charged Hollywood so much that some studios surrendered to them, like RKO. Everyone could see and hear the revolutionary changes.

    By contrast, when digital replaced photographic film, roughly 1999-2010, once again the cameras had to be replaced, the editing equipment, and all the projectors, a gigantic retooling bill, and the public was barely aware of the difference. 

    • #12
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    One always hears that a lot of silent-era stars couldn’t make the transition because their voices weren’t acceptable, but investigating particular cases usually raises other issues. Most of the stars at that point were theater-trained and would not be strangers to spoken parts. It could be that some of those who had come from the live stage had developed particular mannerisms to get their voices to reach the back row seats. I’ve read that the stage voice thing was what held John Gilbert back. Or maybe it was his alcoholism. Or maybe his spoken lines were “uninspired.”

    Talkies didn’t slow down his costar/girlfriend Greta Garbo, though.

    • #13
  14. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    George Lucas was known to have looked at Flash Gordon and other fanciful SF of the serials era, as well as old feature films like The Dam Busters. Here’s where many people believe he got the idea for that famous Star Wars rolling intro:

     

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    EJHill (View Comment):

    The brilliance of John Williams: the Star Wars theme is in the same key as the 20th Century fanfare so that they segue perfectly from one to the other.

    The game horn at Illinois’ Assembly Hall is the same key as “Oskee Wow-Wow,” the Illini fight song. This is not a coincidence. Just before the game is to start, the band starts the song. There is a ritardando that ends in a fermata, and the band just holds that note until the horn chimes in, then finishes the piece.

    (No horn in that one, unfortunately.)

    • #15
  16. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Percival (View Comment):

    One always hears that a lot of silent-era stars couldn’t make the transition because their voices weren’t acceptable, but investigating particular cases usually raises other issues. Most of the stars at that point were theater-trained and would not be strangers to spoken parts. It could be that some of those who had come from the live stage had developed particular mannerisms to get their voices to reach the back row seats. I’ve read that the stage voice thing was what held John Gilbert back. Or maybe it was his alcoholism. Or maybe his spoken lines were “uninspired.”

    Talkies didn’t slow down his costar/girlfriend Greta Garbo, though.

    Gilbert’s career undeniably collapsed after sound came in, but most actors of that time stoutly defended him. “There was nothing wrong with Jack’s voice”. In fact, he had a couple of well-liked, popular minor guest roles in early sound comedies. But when he was once again starring in his own pictures, what killed him wasn’t the voice, but the roles, which had suddenly gone out of fashion. The early sound films did best with the barking voices of gangsters, G-men, and molls. The silent movie dream world of Arabian sheikhs and Ruritanian castles and Lord Fortescue’s undying love for Lady Fortescue now seemed distant and forgotten. And John Gilbert was left behind, stuck with lines like, “I will pursue you until the stars turn cold”, when what audiences now wanted was Jimmy Cagney shoving a grapefruit into a girl’s face. 

    There were absolutely some sound “victims”. The most obvious one is forgotten today, William Haynes, who looked like an action hero, but sounded like Tiny Tim–the ’60s singer, not the one from Dickens. 

    • #16
  17. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    One always hears that a lot of silent-era stars couldn’t make the transition because their voices weren’t acceptable, but investigating particular cases usually raises other issues. Most of the stars at that point were theater-trained and would not be strangers to spoken parts. It could be that some of those who had come from the live stage had developed particular mannerisms to get their voices to reach the back row seats. I’ve read that the stage voice thing was what held John Gilbert back. Or maybe it was his alcoholism. Or maybe his spoken lines were “uninspired.”

    Talkies didn’t slow down his costar/girlfriend Greta Garbo, though.

    Gilbert’s career undeniably collapsed after sound came in, but most actors of that time stoutly defended him. “There was nothing wrong with Jack’s voice”. In fact, he had a couple of well-liked, popular minor guest roles in early sound comedies. But when he was once again starring in his own pictures, what killed him wasn’t the voice, but the roles, which had suddenly gone out of fashion. The early sound films did best with the barking voices of gangsters, G-men, and molls. The silent movie dream world of Arabian sheikhs and Ruritanian castles and Lord Fortescue’s undying love for Lady Fortescue now seemed distant and forgotten. And John Gilbert was left behind, stuck with lines like, “I will pursue you until the stars turn cold”, when what audiences now wanted was Jimmy Cagney shoving a grapefruit into a girl’s face.

    There were absolutely some sound “victims”. The most obvious one is forgotten today, William Haynes, who looked like an action hero, but sounded like Tiny Tim–the ’60s singer, not the one from Dickens.

    Thanks,  Gary.

    Now all you have to do is tell me who murdered Thelma Todd.

    • #17
  18. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):
    One always hears that a lot of silent-era stars couldn’t make the transition because their voices weren’t acceptable,

    And it’s the plot of one of my favorite movies, part of a genre that my granddaughter (who loves them) dubbed “pretty dancing movies” when she was about five.

    I think there are all sorts of ironies in the production in that–at one point–the voice which supposed to be Debbie Reynolds dubbing Jean Hagen is actually Jean Hagen’s voice; the screechy one she affects in the movie isn’t how she sounds at all, and some (not all) of Debbie Reynold’s singing is dubbed by someone else because Reynolds didn’t have the depth or range.  Still, and all, a good flick:

    • #18