Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Series: American Playhouse Season 4, Episode 14
Starring: Sean Young, Lenny von Dohlen, Barnard Hughes, Mark Hulsey, Megan Mullally
Director: Neal Miller
Release Date: 1984
Length: 79 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
“Deciding she needs a husband, 21-year-old Myra Harper (Sean Young) sets her sights on the reserved yet rich Knowleton Whitney (Lenny von Dohlen). All goes according to plan, and the two fall in love under the Biltmore Hotel clock. But meeting his wacky parents turns out to be much harder for Myra than simply landing her man. This lighthearted romance is adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Myra Meets His Family.”” — Netflix.com
I both loved and hated this movie. To begin with, Under the Biltmore Clock was nothing like I expected it to be. I thought I was going to be watching a romantic comedy set in the 1920s, but Under the Biltmore Clock is nothing like your traditional romantic comedy. This movie is based on a short story by “Myra Meets His Family” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I should have taken this into consideration when I rented this movie as I know better than to expect happy endings from Fitzgerald. Alas, I overlooked this piece of information and was anticipating a happily-ever-after despite all clues leading to the contrary. Even though this movie does not have a happy ending, I did appreciate the wit and irony that Fitzgerald employed to make sure that both main characters – Myra (Sean Young) and Knowleton (Lenny von Dohlen) got what they deserved in the end.
This movie begins in 1915 with a fresh young beauty, Myra, showing up on the scene and stealing all the boys’ hearts away. She goes through men quickly and the years pass almost before she knows it. Myra is a good-time girl and it is hinted at, but never admitted, that she might no longer be waiting until marriage to have sex. The film tries to make Myra likeable, but it is pretty clear that she is a gold digger and simply waiting for the best offer she can get while having a good time. It doesn’t take her long for Myra to get her hooks into Knowleton Whitney, a shy young man from a wealthy family. Myra dazzles Knowleton with her charm and, before Knowleton knows what happens, they are engaged. Now the fun begins. How does Knowleton go against mummy & daddy’s wishes and marry the woman he loves? Knowleton is a complex character ably portrayed by Lenny von Dohlen. He is madly in love with Myra when he is with her, but has doubts when they apart. I was delighted to see that Knowleton had hidden depths and thought his scheme was actually quite clever, but, unfortunately, Knowleton didn’t quite have the guts to pull it off.
Observant viewers will be delighted to see a young Megan Mullally appear in this movie as Myra’s close friend, Lilah. She has adopted a posh, upper-class accent and has some scrumptious hats and outfits to show off on-screen. The lead characters had some lovely period costumes, but the production had to cut some corners with the costumes on supporting characters. During the dance scene, there are some rather sad, prom-dress rejects parading across the floor. However, the sets are well done, particularly in the Whitney mansion. I also loved the music. It was delightful to hear period music incorporated into the movie. I particularly enjoyed Mrya’s spirited performance at the family talent show, which showcased flapper style at its finest.
If you are looking for something a bit different, something sneakily clever and do not require a happy ending, you will enjoy Under the Biltmore Clock. There are twists and turns throughout the movie that will definitely keep you guessing. While this movie is solid and entertaining, there is some bit of heart that is missing, which caused me to rate it a bit lower than I probably should have. I liked Knowleton far more than Myra, but I didn’t love either one of them and they never felt right together for me. Do not be fooled into thinking this is a romantic comedy, but rather a comedy with a romantic subplot that doesn’t go as planned.
This movie contains scenes of drinking and smoking. There are some gay characters who are crossdressers. There is a definite divide between the upper and lower class. Due to the time period, there is a clear division between women’s and men’s roles. Women are still working to get the vote and most women aspire to simply marry well. Though some mature topics, such as premarital sex, are hinted at, there is nothing inappropriate in this movie for younger viewers. Recommended for ages 10 and up.