Columbia Pictures

Compiled by Jason Jones and James Fabiano

1st Logo

Nicknames: "Early Torch Lady", "Sparkler Torch Lady"

Logo: We see a medium shot of a lady (Columbia, a representation of the USA), holding a light torch in her right hand. The lady is featured with a dark bob and a kind of Cleopatra-like headdress across her forehead. She is draped in an American flag complete with the stars on her left shoulder and the stripes coming across her middle, supported by her left arm, and hanging down her right side. Her torch is displayed with a rather primitive, flickering style of animation emitting lines of light as rays. The torch lady's head is under an arch of chiseled-though square shaped letters reading the words "A Columbia Production". At the end of the movie, the words are... "This Is A Columbia Picture" with "The End" below it.

Variant: Some movies would feature the name in another typeface, and will sometimes be ID'ed as "Columbia Pictures Corporation" at the start of the film, and "A Columbia Production" at the end of the film.

SFX/Cheesy Factor: The torch rays shining like fireworks and sparklers, which look silly, but the logo is from the 20s, so give them credit.

Music: A majestic horn sounder, much like the Fox logo.

Availability: Can still be seen on reruns of early (w/o Schemp) Three Stooges shorts on AMC.

Scare Factor: Median

2nd Logo

Nickname: "Classic Torch Lady"

Logo: We see the lady, this time standing on top of a pedestal with a backdrop of clouds over her, while she is holding her light torch. Much more refined, ethereal and goddess-like, her facial features became less pronounced and she looked away (up and to the right) instead of straight ahead. Her headdress was removed and her hair swept back instead of hanging by the sides of her face. The drape over her shoulder became less-obviously an American flag, the stars on the left shoulder having been toned down in a shadow, and the stripes visible only on the portion of the drape hanging down her right side. "A Columbia Production" was replaced with the tall chiseled letters of "COLUMBIA" (which fades in a second afterward) running straight across the top section of the screen, with the lady's torch glowing in front of the "U". A new form of animation was used on the logo as well, with a torch that radiates light instead of flickers.


  • 1949: The lady looks much as she had in 1936, only the stripes were removed and the flag became simply a drape without markings, dark on the left shoulder but only the shadows of the folds differentiating the rest of it from the lady's white gown on her right side. The "COLUMBIA" lettering was also modified, still chiseled but less bold, and with darker shadowing.
  • 1950s: The Columbia Lady's robe was redrawn with a plunging neckline.
  • Late 1960s: She lost her slipper-clad foot peeking out from the bottom of her robe as it divided just above the pedestal. Also, the clouds behind the logo became concentrated in the center and more billowy in shape. The drapery was temporarily all white during this era.

Byline: Starting in 1973-74, the phrase "A Division of Columbia Pictures Industries" appears at the bottom of the screen.

SFX: The torch rays shine more realistically in this version.

Music: Usually, the beginning of a movie's opening score plays over the logo. On some films, the logo appears completely silent.

Availability: Uncommon, can still be seen on various broadcasts of classic Columbia movies, as Sony preserves their movie logos well.

Scare Factor: Median, the old B/W film and scary drawing might send some chills.

3rd Logo
(December 1975-1981)

Nicknames: "Torch Lady" ---> "The Abstract Torch", "The Sunburst"

Logo: It begins with the familiar Columbia Torch Lady, standing on the pedestal holding her light torch. Then, the picture moves upward and towards the torch, which shines even more as the picture blurs around it. It then emits a flash that fills the screen. When the flash dissolves, the light torch itself appears, as if in sunburst, against a black screen and as it shrinks, it changes into a more "abstract" torch: a blue half circle, or a semicircle, with thirteen white light rays in the center and the words "Columbia Pictures" under it. The entire logo then slowly backs away as it fades out.

SFX: The Torch Lady's torch being zoomed in on, then turning into the Sunburst.

Music: The movie theme begins with a dramatic theme that builds up as the camera zooms in on the torch. With the flash/sunburst, it takes an inspirational, majestic tone. Of course, like many other movie logos, this could also be silent or have the opening theme play over it, but usually not.

Availability: Actually more common than the TV version, as Sony is much better at keeping old logos on video releases of their movies. So you can usually still see the Torch Lady/Sunburst combination on movies from the time period. You can usually see it on cable movie channels as well.

Scare Factor: Minimal, this was/is a favorite of many.

4th Logo

Nickname: "80s Torch Lady"

Logo: We see the standard Columbia torch lady (a somewhat less detailed version of the '70s Torch Lady; she also appears to be resembling Da Vinci's Mona Lisa) standing on a pedestal with her torch. The torch then shines into a bright abstract shape, as if in sunburst, then dims back in place. The words "Columbia Pictures" fade to the left and right of the Torch Lady. Her torch "shines".

Variant: After 1988, the logo fades in and then the company name fades in about a second afterward. There was no big bright light in this variation.

SFX/Cheesy Factor: The torch lady "shining"

Music: None, but on one occasion, had used the Sunburst music, which was probably a goof-up. Too bad, it kinda went well with this logo.

Availability: Still saved on all movies when reran on cable or syndication, but the earlier variation is easier to come by, due to being used a longer time period and being on more popular movies.

Scare Factor: Minimal.

5th Logo

Nickname: "90s Torch Lady"

Logo: This logo has a face lifted torch lady of the 1930s-70s on her pedestal, giving more detail to the drawing. First, we see a bright light, as if in sunburst. The light is coming from a torch, which zooms out to reveal the person who's holding it. On the top "COLUMBIA", seen in a bold, silver chiseled font, fades in afterward as a ring of light shimmers around the lady.

Byline: Starting in late 1996, "A Sony Pictures Entertainment Company", appears on the bottom.

The "Making Of" the 90s Torch Lady: The logo's most recent overhaul was undertaken during this era when Sony Pictures Entertainment (which bought Columbia in 1989) commissioned illustrator Michael J. Deas to redesign the lady and return her to her "classic" look. The result, based on Deas' sessions with Mandeville, Louisiana homemaker Jenny Joseph who posed for him with a makeshift robe and torch, was a taller, slimmer Columbia Torch Lady with lighter, curlier hair and a dimmer torch. Rather than use Joseph's face however, Deas constructed a composite face made up of several computer-generated features.

SFX: Zooming out of the torch.

Music: A majestic tune is heard. Ends with a brass sounder.

Availability: Pretty easy to find, as it's in current use. More movies from this era are now being shown on basic cable, so it's common, but thankfully, not plastering anything.

Scare Factor: None, nothing scary about it, has a beautiful fanfare, and a soothing backdrop.