Pie in the Sky

Made with the participation of Irving Lerner, Leo Hurwitz  and Group Theatre members Elia Kazan, Ellman Koolish, Molly Day Thatcher, and Russell Collins.

This off-hand satire, about the dichotomy between the illusory promises of religion and the stark prospects of an actual life of poverty and unemployment, highlighted the work of NYKino in association with The Group Theatre, the left-wing experimental theater company. The result is a bit of light-hearted (if sophomoric) political humor, featuring Elia “Gadget” Kazan and Ellman Koolish as a couple of knuckle-headed down-and-outs clowning around in a Long Island dump. The association with The Group Theatre was to bare fuller fruit in Native Land, 1942.

Note: Although Leo Hurwitz only advised on this film, it is included because it marks a transitional point in the development of the group of filmmakers who would go on to found Frontier Films, a key production group in the creation of the social documentary. Dissatisfied with the “newsreel” style films of the Workers Film and Photo League that they thought preached mainly to the converted, several members joined in a group to try to make more “serious” films. While, they wanted to explore more creative styles and techniques, they first tried to do it inside the WFPL. They met with resistance from those who wanted to preserve the original style of the group’s output, and finally broke away to form a new group called NYKino. NYKino produced little finished work. But in its year or so of existence, it gathered together an extraordinary band of creative people who would later form the center of what has been called The New York School of the Documentary. Those who circulated around NYKino include, in addition to the makers of Pie In The Sky, Lionel Berman, Paul Strand, Leo Hurwitz, Willard Van Dyke, Sydney Meyers, Ben Maddow, and Joris Ivens, all of whom went on to found or join Frontier Films in 1937.

Ralph Steiner




16 minutes



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Elia “Gadget” Kazan

Ellman Koolish

Molly Day Thacher

Russell Collins

Irving Lerner

Ralph Steiner


Titles by Robert Forsythe