Rainbow on the River (1936) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Young Phillip Ainsworth, (Bobby Breen), an orphan of the US Civil War, has been lovingly raised by Toinette, (Louise Beavers) a former slave. Toinette has big plans for the boy. She has saved her money to send him to a private school. But when the local priest, Father Josef, (Henry O'Neill) finds Phillip's family living in New York, the boy is sent north to live with people who refuse to accept him as their own. His only friend is the butler, Barrett, (Charles Butterworth). But his curmodgeon of a grandmother, (May Robson) is finally broken down by the boy's charm and good manners, and all ends happily. Along the way Breen has ample opportunity to show off his voice by singing several songs, including the title song three times.

  • A young boy is forced to leave his family in the South and move in with relatives he doesn't know in New York.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Young Southerner Phillip Ainsworth (Booby Breen), orphaned in the Civil War, is raised by faithful former slave Toinette (Louise Beavers). Kindly reverend (Henry ONeill) discovers Breens grandmother Harriet Ainsworth (May Robson) in NYC and arranges to have him sent there, breaking poor Toinette's heart. His unpleasant, crusty old grandma is soon won over by Phillips sweetness and voice. She even goes with Breen to visit Toinette, who is near death from pining for her white ward and who moves to New York with them. Impossibly saccharine and unintentionally condescending to blacks. Theres a jaw-dropping final shot of them all singing the title song as they ride a carriage from the platation, with dozens of bandana-headed blacks picking cotton in the fields and gaily singing along with them.

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