Hollywood Invented a New Type Of Fake Snow To Film It's a Wonderful Life

The Frank Capra classic isn't known for its special effects. But since It's a Wonderful Life was shot in the sweltering heat of June and July of 1946, the filmmakers had to develop a new type of artificial snow.

LIFE has a great collection of never before seen photos from the film's set, detailing the technical challenges of making Bedford Falls look like a winter wonderland. Before It's a Wonderful Life, fake movie snow was mostly made from cornflakes painted white. And it was so loud when stepped on that any snow filled scenes with dialogue had to be re-dubbed afterwards.

So, working with Russel Sherman—RKO studio's head of special effects—director Frank Capra developed his own type of quiet fake snow. Mixing foamite—a material used in fire extinguishers—with sugar, water, and even soap flakes, a sprayable version of artificial snow was created that could be quickly blasted over set pieces. A little disconcerting, though, are reports that asbestos was also used to dress some of the sets. While the material doesn't make life any less wonderful, at the time they didn't realize it had the potential to make it drastically shorter. [Life via Coudal]

Photo: Martha Holmes/TIME & LIFE Pictures