In “The Story Behind…” series I take a look at movie related things, with this time the focus on a logo. 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 Columbia Pictures. It was founded in 1919 and named Cohn-Brandt-Cohn Film Sales, which got changed to Columbia Pictures in 1924. So what does Columbia mean and who is the lady in the logo?
To know the origin of the name Columbia we have to travel back all the way to 1738 when it was published in the weekly publication of the debates of the British Parliament. It was forbidden to print the debates and to camouflage this they were published as Reports of the Debates of the Senate of Lilliput. Fictional names were thought up for other countries and Columbia was the one used for America, the one responsible for this is most probably Samuel Johnson. The name finally became the female personification of America and was chosen to be the name and logo of the company. It is not completely clear however on which woman Columbia has been based. Several women have claimed to be the inspiration, but a conclusive answer was never found.
Through the years the logo has had many forms:
The original CBC Films Sales logo
Before the Torch lady appeared in 1928 the studio used the image of a female Roman Soldier holding a stick and a shield.
In this version the Torch Lady had a headdress and had rays on the torch that flickered.
This updated version removed the headdress and a pedestal was added.
Although the image remained much the same a colored widescreen version was introduced.
Although this version started with the torch lady, it zoomed in on the rays of the torch to end with the stylised Columbia Pictures logo.
This version was similar to the previous one, although less detailed, with the stylised version shortly appearing before Columbia Pictures appeared.
In 1992 a new matte painting was made by artist Michael J. Deas. It was Jenny Joseph who was the model for this updated version. Deas created an oil painting based on her, which has been later digitised and animated. I was able to interview the artist about painting it. You can find it here.
For their 75th Anniversary it showed a quick transition of the lady to the current version with “75th” appearing as well.