Gorgeous Ruth Cleve (Myrtle Steadman) poses for a painting by artist Paul Keith (Elliot Dexter). During the creative process, Keith falls in love with Ruth, not knowing that she is a wealthy socialite, the daughter of prominent businessman Martin Ellsworth (Jack Livingston). Technically speaking, there is no reason why Keith, himself a prominent public figure, should not marry Ruth, but for some reason the film suggests that this is socially impossible. The plot hinges upon the advice offered to Ruth by her look-alike mother (also played by Steadman). The American Beauty was directed by William Desmond Taylor, whose own obsession with such real-life beauties as Mary Miles Minter and Mabel Normand may or may not have brought about his still-unsolved murder.
~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide