10 Things You Didn’t Know About It’s A Wonderful Life
6. The Set
The movie had a budget of $3.7 million, which was hugely expensive for the mid-1940s. It took two months to construct the set on an 89-acre RKO movie ranch in Encino, California. It included 75 stores and buildings, a tree-lined center parkway with 20 fully grown oak trees and a factory district and residential areas. Main Street was 300 yards long, which was three full-length city blocks. Pigeons, cats, and dogs were allowed to roam around the set to give the town a lived-in feel. The movie was shot from April 15, 1946, and ended on July 27, 1946, which was during a heat wave. Capra had to shut down filming for a day so that the cast and crew recover from heat exhaustion.
5. Special Effects
Prior to It’s a Wonderful Life, films used cornflakes painted white for the falling snow effect, but this method was so loud that dialogue had to be dubbed in later. Capra wanted to record the sound live, so Capra – who was trained as an engineer – and his special effects supervisor Russell Shearman invented a new type of snow for the movie, which was a mix of foamite, sugar and water. Six thousand gallons of this was used in the making of the film and the RKO Effects Department received a Technical Award from the Motion Picture Academy for developing it. With this new snow, Capra was able to record the film’s sound live, which added another layer of authenticity to the movie.