The Story Behind…

History of the Paramount Pictures logo

Through the years I have seen tons of movies. In this new (regular) feature I plan to look into the story behind things we don’t notice anymore related to movies, which are a lot of things.

One of them are the logos of the companies that produce these movies. It is something we see every time a movie starts, but do you know the history of them? This week I look into the logo of a company which was founded 100 years ago in 1912: Paramount Pictures.

The company was first called Famous Players Film Company, which merged in 1916 with Feature Play Company. Before their merger they both released their movies through Paramount Pictures Company, which was founded by William Wadsworth Hodkinson. The two merged companies acquired Paramount Pictures Company, which would be the first nation-wide film distributor in the US. The story goes that it was Hodkinson who designed the logo of Paramound Pictures on a napkin. The mountain peak that is shown is probably Ben Lomond Mountain, which he saw in his youth. The original logo had 24 stars. You may wonder why there are that many, but each star represented an actor/actress they had signed to the company, a total of 24.

There have been several versions of the logo:

1914-1952

The original logo was in black and white (with slight variations, e.g. sometimes there were more or less stars).

1952-1954

Jan Domela (Dutch born) was the chief matte painter at the studios and painted this version.

1954-1967

The logo was changed again shortly after the previous version to accomodate widescreen and the VistaVision logo appeared before it dissolved to show the above image.

1968-1975

In this newer version the text reads “Paramount” instead of “A Paramount Picture” and the Gulf+Western byline has been added.

1975-1986

This logo started out with the mountain but faded into this blue outlined version.

1987-2002

This was the first version of the logo which was CGI generated, with the stars flying towards the mountain.

2002-2011

This one starts out in the clouds and the stars seem to come from space while the camera slowly moves towards the mountain.

2011-

To celebrate their 100-year anniversary a new sequence was made. This was first shown before Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

You might also be interested in:
History of UAHistory of MGM

32 thoughts on “The Story Behind…

    • To be honest I wouldn’t be able to tell you which movies are made by which companies, so don’t really have a favorite, but thought it was interesting to learn a bit more!

  1. Really cool idea about the logos; I really love it when the logos become part of the beginning of the film. For some reason I’ve always been quite partial to the Universal logo, but I don’t think there’s any reason for it

    However, I’m pretty sure that picture above is not Ben Lomond. Few Scottish mountains are that pointy, most are barren and more rounded. Ben Lomond is not far from Glasgow, which means many families go for a day trip out to climb it; usually in inappropriate clothing. I remember going up it and seeing a woman in leopard print leggings and shoes that were tantamount to high heels! There’s no way that girl would have attempted the mountain in the picture above!

    Ah my bad! I’ve just found that there is a Ben Lomond in California! I guess that was maybe foolish of me to think that there was only one Ben Lomond in the world. I mean, it’s not like it’s a Gaelic word or anything!

    Erm, that was maybe a bit ranty! Sorry!

    • Thanks a lot! I love that too when it is a seamless blend of them.

      Interesting to know that there are more mountains with that name…I already started to have doubts if I did my research right!

  2. My personal favourite Hollywood logo is the old Universal one (not old, exactly, but with the different score behind it) they used in the Liar Liar era. Loved that epic, sweeping intro music.

  3. What an original idea for a post! It’s something I usually don’t pay much attention to, though I’ve always wondered about the woman in the Columbia logo. Why is she there? I like the logos at the end of TV series, because most of them are pretty funny. And I love the vanity cards in Chuck Lorre’s series, like Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. Know what I’m talking about?

    I’m looking forward to reading more posts like this! 🙂

    • Thank you! The logo of Columbia will also be included in one of the future posts, so keep your eye out for it. I don’t watch too many TV series, so I don’t know the logos of the shows you mentioned.

      • I think that vanity card is a synonym for production logo. The creator of those series I mentioned shows a short text written by him (and offen wutie hilarious)cat the end of each episode, instead of a logo. They are shown just for one or two seconds, so the only way to read them is by pausing. It’s something very weird, really. But I love the detail! Here’s the article on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Lorre#Vanity_cards

        I’ll be waiting for your post about the Columbia logo 🙂

  4. This is very cool!! Thanks for highlighting studio logos, I’m kind of fascinated by ’em. You should make this a series and do the history of other logos like MGM, etc. I had no idea it’s a real mountain used in the Paramount one, I quite like the latest animated version but my all time fave is still the Disney one. I also love the Disney theme used in it.

    • Thanks Ruth, I was already planning to make this a series, so I think you’ll be glad to hear it. It won’t be logos only though as there are some other things I want to look into as well.
      The Disney one does have a lot of magic to it!

  5. Awesome post. I love movie history and although I’ve grown watching the logo I didn’t know the origins. I do like how they incorporate the movies into the logo sometimes. The latest versions looks quite sleek. Once again great post and I hope you cover some other logo’s too.

  6. One of the coolest movie openings ever was when the Paramount logo dissolved into the mountain at the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

  7. Great series! I have been wanting to look into the history of the studio logos for some time. And don’t forget, you still have Universal and United Artists to do

  8. Pingback: The Story Behind… The Columbia Pictures Logo « My Filmviews

  9. what is a “Paramount Picture?” it is the best movie you can see.
    Paramount means best, supreme, most important. literally above and beyond (amont + par).
    The name is a promise of quality. adding the mountain visual gives the company epic scope, grandeur, solidity. the mountain says “you can trust our promise.”

  10. I had heard that the Paramount logo was inspired by a peak in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. Another Ben Lomond in there somewhere?

    For many 30s-40s Paramount films, the mountain is shown to be all blurry and obscured behind the stars & lettering. Looks terrible. Maybe the poor rendering was due to the Great Depression or other cost-cuttings!

    Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 ‘The Ten Commandments’ had a custom-made logo, all lighted in red. Not a Mt. Sinai – more like a Matterhorn! Elmer Bernstein didn’t compose a fanfare, but the kick-off of his gigantic score is the perfect soundtrack for this ultra-special occasion. Two more DeMille specials: when the logo dissolves into a rotating wheel of fortune at the start of ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’, and DeMille’s signature with the logo on his last production, ‘The Buccaneer’ of 1958.

    To me, the best version was during the VistaVision years. Like 20th-Fox, the screen process was a big deal. At the beginning of ‘White Christmas’ in 1954, it says ‘Paramount proudly presents the first picture filmed in…’ Then dissolve to the VistaVision logo, comin’ at ya, to a big fanfare by house composer Nathan Van Cleave. Then dissolve into the razor-sharp logo (with moving clouds), that has never been topped. Subsequent VistaVision films started with the logo, then the VistaVision extension, with ‘Motion Picture’ and ‘High Fidelity’ added as bonuses.

    This bright and clear logo is much more preferable to me than the gloomy CGI colors of today.

  11. The last movie to use the 1975-86 logo was “Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home”. The next movie that Paramount released, “The Golden Child”, had the 1987-2002 logo.

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