The Grave of Leo the Lion 🦁

Slats' Grave

~ Last updated on Dec 17, 2023 ~

Slats – The 1st of 5 MGM Lions

Slats the 1st MGM Lion
Slats the 1st MGM Lion

While Leo is probably the most famous of the MGM lions, Slats was actually the first (out of 5 lions) used on Goldwyn Pictures logo (1917-1924). He was then used on all of the black-and-white MGM films (1924-1928).

While driving through New Jersey with my mother, I had planned to stop in Gillette, New Jersey to try and locate Slats’ grave. She eventually realized where we were going and mentioned to me that she had friends of the family who could be tied to Leo the Lion.

I was instantly surprised by her remark and this was when I proceeded to hash it out with her and played the “Kevin Bacon Game” (aka 6 degrees of separations or less)…

Degrees of Separation from Me to the First Leo the Lion:

  1. Me
  2. My Mother and her Family
  3. The Ledder Family (Mildred & Ted – Vaudeville Performers & friends to my mother)
  4. Volney Phifer (aka Captain Phifer – Owner/Trainer of the lion and brother-in-law to Mildred)
  5. Leo the Lion aka Slats 🦁

Slats – The Lion That Has No Roar

Slats the MGM Lion
Slats the MGM Lion

As classic and memorable as the MGM lion roar is, Slats only looked around in the logo bumper, making him the only MGM lion not to roar on screen. It is rumored that Volney Phifer did train Slats to growl on cue, despite the fact that synchronized sound would not officially be used in motion pictures until 1927.

Slats died in 1936 and his hide is “thought to be” at the McPherson Museum in McPherson, Kansas. I reached out to the Executive Director @ the McPherson Museum, and she let me know the story behind their lion hide is that it once was an MGM lion, whether it be Slats or another lion, they cannot state for sure as there is no official evidence of it being Slats. The lion hide is not always on display so if you are looking to see it, you will want to check with the museum first to see if it is accessible for viewing.

Volney Phifer had the body sent to his farm in Gillette, New Jersey and buried it there, marking the grave with a granite slab and a pine tree to ‘hold down the lion’s spirit’.

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  1. Laura Anne Michael UNITED STATES

    Who names a lion Slats?! His hide is on display? Seems a little… morbid. I’d still go see it though.

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  2. I am not sure of how the name Slats came to be. However, I have researched further and found out that the Lion’s Hide is unable to be confirmed as Slats’ Hide according to the museum. They know it is one of the MGM lions but are not able to verify if it is Slats’ or not.

    Be sure to check ahead with the museum as it may not be currently on display.

  3. Visiting here must have been a roaring good time, amirite?

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