Search: mgm lion killed trainer; volney phifer
Why: On the Cargo Collective project LEARN SOMETHING EVERY DAY:
Answer: Probably not! The only things that mention this are the same types of sites, like Factropolis. Don't believe everything you read!
The first lion used for the logo was named Slats. He was used on all black and white films from 1924 to 1928. The lion was a tribute to logo designer Howard Dietz's alma mater Columbia University, whose mascot was the lion. Trainer Volney Phifer taught Slats to growl rather than roar. He is the only MGM lion who you can't hear (silent movies and all) - all he does it look around.
For years, Slats would tour with MGM promoters to signify the studio's launch. During this time, he survived 2 train wrecks, a flood in Mississippi, an earthquake in California, a fire, and a plane crash. Slats died in 1936 at age 23 and was buried on Phifer's farm in New Jersey.
So the MGM lions so far have been:
- Slats (used 1924-28) - did not kill and eat trainer or assistants
- Jackie (1928-56) - roar played on a gramophone for silent movie watchers
- Telly (1927-32) - part of a two-strip Technicolor sequence
- Coffee (1932-35) - part of a two-strip Technicolor sequence; in one, he roars 3 times instead of twice
- Tanner (1934-56) - used in all Technicolor MGM films, including The Wizard of Oz
- George (1956-58) - had two different versions of roaring in different directions
- Leo (1957-present) - has a smaller mane than everyone else because he was younger when filmed; said to be trained with "affection training" rather than whips and beating, which made him very docile
Source: Wikipedia, Behind the Curtain, Animal Fair
The More You Know: Another anecdote about an MGM lion... It claims to be the "original," but that doesn't make any sense, so I think it must be about Tanner:
Despite its fine cast, Edward Finney's Queen of the Amazons (1947) was shot on a shoestring budget. Though it featured the original MGM lion, for example, the poor beast was so advanced in years that he had no teeth and producers were obliged to have a false set made. One summer day on the set, the lion was supposed to attack the hero (his trainer) but it was so hot that whenever the director was ready to shoot, the lion would lie down and refuse to budge.
Finally, after several takes, someone opened the soundstage doors to let in some fresh air and the lion stirred; indeed, while no one was looking, he got up and disappeared. He was later found wandering around Hollywood's Western Avenue terrifying pedestrians with his false teeth.