Saturday, November 20, 2021

Wonderful Snow

It's been a while since I mentioned Entertainment Weekly, which I've been enjoying less over the years. But there was a brief story in the December 2021 issue I thought was worth filing in the cabinet.

Until It's a Wonderful Life came out in 1946, movie snow was usually made from bleached cornflakes, which required redubbing all the dialog. (Cotton or asbestos were also used sometimes. They would have been quieter, but less realistic looking.) 

Because the film's snow scenes were so important to his vision, Frank Capra tasked Russell Shearman, head of the RKO special effects department, with coming up with better, quieter snow to cover the four-acre set, which was filmed during summer.

Shearman's solution: "a mixture of Foamite (found in fire extinguishers), soap, sugar, and water to be shot out of canisters at high pressure and wafted over the set with fans."

The new method became the industry standard and Shearman won an Oscar for technical achievement in 1949.

EW's source for the story is the book Christmas in the Movies by Jeremy Arnold.

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