The Rainbow (film)

The Rainbow

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ken Russell
Produced by Dan Ireland
William J. Quigley
Written by D. H. Lawrence
Ken Russell
Vivian Russell
Starring Sammi Davis
Paul McGann
Amanda Donohoe
Music by Carl Davis
Cinematography Billy Williams
Edited by Peter Davies
Release dates
  • 5 May 1989 (1989-05-05)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Rainbow is a 1989 British drama film directed by Ken Russell.[1] The story, adapted from the D. H. Lawrence novel The Rainbow, is a prequel to Lawrence's Women in Love.

Sammi Davis stars as Ursula, a sheltered young pupil, then schoolteacher, who's taken under the wing (sexually and otherwise) by the more sophisticated Winifred (Amanda Donohoe). Glenda Jackson appears as the mother of the character she played in Women in Love.

Leonard Maltin commented that "Many beautiful and striking moments don't quite gel, but still worth watching". The film was entered into the 16th Moscow International Film Festival.[2]


Set during the final years of England's Victorian era, Ursula Brangwen is the eldest of several children of wealthy Derbyshire farmer Will Brangwen and his wife Anna. Ursula, since age 3, has a fascination with rainbows and after one rainstorm, she runs off with a suitcase hoping to look for a pot of gold at the end of it. Will tries to ease her fascination by making her peanut butter and jam sandwiches with several spreads of different flavoured jam resembling a rainbow.

During her teenage years, Ursula falls into a same sex romance with her older swimming and gym teacher Winifred Inger, while at the same time, Ursula also begins having romantic feelings for Anton Skrebensky, a student at the nearby boys high school who plans to enlist in the Army after graduation. Ursula and Winifred spend romantic weekends together at Winifred's house as well as hiking in the hills around the area. Winifred introduces Ursula to an artist friend of hers whom encourages Ursula to model in the nude for his paintings, and when the artist, Mac, makes sexual advances towards Ursula and refuses to pay her for her modeling, she walks out.

One weekend, Ursula brings along Winifred as her chaperone when she visits her father's wealthy older brother, Uncle Henry, who becomes smitten with Winifred and, after a short courtship, proposes marriage to her. Winifred accepts which creates jealousy in Ursula.

Feeling abandoned and alone after Winifred leaves her to marry Uncle Henry, and Anton goes off to fight in the Second Boer War in South Africa, Ursula decides to re-start her life by becoming a school teacher. After graduation from high school, Ursula moves to London where she takes a job as a schoolmarm at a poor elementary school in the East End where she becomes quickly appalled by the lack of discipline and hygiene among the impoverished children she is forced to teach (many of whom are illiterate child laborers). She also fends off sexual advances by the lecherous headmaster of the school, who uses physical discipline to settle unruly students. Ursula initially refuses to go to that level of physical punishment for her class. But after being provoked a few too many times by one belligerent boy who uses a slingshot to pelt her with small stones, Ursula finally loses her temper and violently beats the child with a cane in full view of the class and school staff. While her violent outburst actually works to pacify her students, and makes the headmaster not to make anymore inappropriate passes at her, Ursula is guilt-ridden by her own actions and as a result, she quits her job when the school year ends.

Returning to her family farm a year-and-a-half later in the spring of 1901, Ursula is reunited with Anton who is back from war and wants to rekindle a romance with her. After having a casual reunion with Winifred, who is now married to Uncle Henry and now has a baby, Ursula decides to consummate her romance with Anton. At the same time, Ursula also begins working with a local miners union to help out unprivileged workers with salary and securities. When she learns that she may be pregnant, Anton proposes marriage to her, but she turns him down, wanting to follow her own path in life.

After Anton leaves her for good, Ursula is attacked while walking home alone by two mine workers who attempt to rape her, but she escapes and spends most of the day hiding out in a rain-soaked forest, but she makes it back to her farm. There she finds a telegram from Anton who informs her that he had gotten married to another woman and has left the country with her for a military post in India.

After a heartfelt talk with her father about life and what path it leads in life, Ursula decides to start all over again. In the final scene, Ursula packs a suitcase and runs out of her house to chase another large rainbow that appears after a storm, just like her younger self used to.



  1. James, Caryn. "NY Times: The Rainbow". NY Times. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  2. "16th Moscow International Film Festival (1989)". MIFF. Retrieved 24 March 2013.

External links

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