It’s A Wonderful Life Revolutionised Movie Snow

75 years after it first appeared in cinemas, the popularity of It’s a Wonderful Life grows year on year, but now a report in Entertainment Weekly has uncovered how the film’s makers devised a revolutionary new method to create the snow scenes that are so crucial to the Christmas climax of the film.

Entertainment Weekly reports that director Frank Capra wanted the film to feature a lot of snow, including falling snow, so the old movie tricks of using bleached cornflakes or asbestos for snow weren’t going to work. 

“The snow is vital to the storytelling,” Jeremy Arnold, author of Christmas in the Movies, tells Entertainment weekly, adding, “It conveys not just a joyful Christmas Eve, but also the character’s rebirth.”

The RKO movie special-effects department, led by Russell Shearman, stepped up to the plate with a mixture of fire extinguisher foam, soap, sugar, and water that could be blown over the set with a noiseless fan to simulate snowfall.  Testimony to the success of the invention was that Bedford Falls looks cold and wintery even though the film was actually shot on a sweltering LA lot in midsummer.

Entertainment weekly notes that Shearman’s invention became the industry standard for snow for decades afterwards and in 1949 he won the technical achievement Oscar for “simulating falling snow on motion picture sets.”