Slats – The 1st of 5 MGM Lions
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:
- My Mother and her Family
- The Ledder Family (Mildred & Ted – Vaudeville Performers & friends to my mother)
- Volney Phifer (aka Captain Phifer – Owner/Trainer of the lion and brother-in-law to Mildred)
- Leo the Lion aka Slats 🦁
Slats – The Lion That Has No Roar
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 currently on display at the McPherson Museum in McPherson, Kansas. 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’.