Writer, screenwriter and filmmaker Nora Ephron is one of America’s best-loved female authors. She is one of the greatest authors of contemporary cinema when it comes to sophisticated romantic comedy. In fact, no one does the genre of romantic comedies as she did!
Active as a screenwriter for the cinema since the early 1980s, with her debut Silkwood directed by Mike Nichols, she won her first Oscar nomination for original screenplay showing so much talent since her early days.
Nora knew how to tell the most celebrated of feelings with originality, writing and directing some of the best feel-good movies that kept us company in times that we thought were difficult. From her debut with the drama to the timeless You’ve Got Mail to the delightful Julie & Julia: Nora made us fall in love many times over.
Whether she was a screenwriter or behind-the-camera directing, Nora Ephron presented many great films that left a mark on the history of cinema. In this article, we would like to pay a fitting and moving tribute to this elegant and always vivacious artist, who sadly left us in 2012 at the age of 71. Here is our remembrance of the great Nora Ephron.
Who is Nora Ephron?
Nora Ephron was born on 19 May 1941 in New York. Daughter of screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron, she studied at Wellesley College, focusing on literary studies. She began her working career as a journalist, publishing numerous articles and essays in prestigious magazines such as Esquire and the New York Times Magazine.
Soon, however, she entered the world of fictional literature, publishing short stories and novels in which the distinctive features of her writing were already present; the presence of strong and independent female characters, the focus on love relationships that are updated, and the crises of affection.
She began her Hollywood career in the seventies, working in television; however, it was in 1983 that Nora took a big step to stardom after co-writing the film Silkwood with Alice Arlen. The film turned out to be a great success, and Nora and Alice got nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
In the same year, Nora released her semi-autobiographical novel titled Heartburn; the book is based on her second marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.
Hitting the Jackpot!
However, Nora really hit the jackpot at the box office with her screenplay When Harry Met Sally…, headlined by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The film became a favourite of audiences and critics alike. In When Harry Met Sally…, Nora tried to answer the question that has been asked for ages; can men and women be just friends? Nora’s brilliant script was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Together with her younger sister Delia, Nora has also written most of the films she has directed, starting with her directorial debut, This Is My Life (1992). The film received rave reviews and was highly praised in the press. This Is My Life follows the story of a single mother as she tries to make it in the world of stand-up comedy.
In 1993, it was the turn of Nora’s next big hit: Sleepless in Seattle. The hugely successful film’s reception was incredible, and it showed the great talent of Nora as a director. The film earned Nora her third Oscar nomination, and it was a blockbuster that year.
Striking Again With a New Gem!
She then went on to direct Mixed Nuts (1994) and Michael (1996). However, it was the classic You’ve Got Mail (1998) that brought Nora back to the spotlight. She cooked up her successful formula for making a great film relying once again on the undeniable chemistry between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Nora didn’t only direct the film, but she also co-wrote its screenplay with her sister, Delia.
In 2000, Nora wrote the film Hanging Up, an all-female story directed by Diane Keaton. The film starred Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, and Lisa Kudrow. In the same year, she also worked on the not-so-lucky-with-success film Lucky Numbers, which Nora directed.
Five years later, in 2005, Nora tried her luck with magic with the film Bewitched, which sadly didn’t do well with the audience. In 2006, she took a break from fiction and realised her book I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, in which she provided a comic look at women ageing and other issues.
In 2009, Nora struck again with a new hit, Julie & Julia. She received widespread acclaim for directing and writing this comedy about the life of celebrity chef Julia Child.
Three years later, Ephron died of pneumonia, which she got because of acute myeloid leukaemia, on 26 June 2012, at the age of 71, leaving behind so many works that never fail to make us feel good again when we are feeling down.
Considered by now the creator of a modernisation of the American romantic comedy, Nora knew how to tell simple stories in the most engaging ways.
Nora Ephron Most Memorable Films
Thanks to her genuine talent and absolute dedication, Nora has left behind many memorable films for us to enjoy. Next, we remember some of her amazing work.
Nora drew an impeccable script from the ashes of her disastrous relationship with journalist Carl Bernstein for this film. The film, directed by Mike Nichols, stars two household names, namely Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.
Heartburn tells with truth and sweetness a portrait of women who sacrifice far too much in the name of love until they find themselves having to rebuild their lives. The duet between the two great leads was just right for the story. Besides the script, the legendary soundtrack that features Carly Simon’s famous song Coming Around Again is the cherry on the top.
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
This is simply the perfect romantic comedy that became the role model for every other romantic comedy. With a versatile and inspired director such as Rob Reiner at the helm and two never-before-seen-together leads like Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, a timeless classic was born!
The film tells the story between Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) and their friendship that turns into love. Ephron’s frothy screenplay for this film painted the battle between the sexes in an ironic, over-the-top manner.
When Harry Met Sally… is an immortal film with a dozen memorable scenes, a chilling finale, and the simulated orgasm sequence in the restaurant that has entered the history of comic cinema in its own right. The film was a huge success earning Nora her second Oscar nomination for original screenplay.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
This film is the second legendary cinematic encounter between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks; the first was three years earlier with the surreal and hilarious Joe Versus the Volcano (1990). Ephron went out on her own this time and directed Sleepless in Seattle besides writing it.
The film was inspired by the 1957’s film An Affair to Remember, and it follows the story of Sam, a widower and inconsolable. He lives in Chicago, but here everything reminds him of his missing wife. So, he decides to move to Seattle together with his little son Jonah, who entrusts his sadness over his father’s despair to a radio station show, becoming a national case and attracting the attention of Baltimore journalist Annie Reed.
In the meantime, Sam receives a series of letters from would-be wives, including – precisely – Annie’s. Things escalate, and they go on a date at the top of the Empire State Building, which changes their lives forever.
A melodrama plot for a comedy that cannot be more romantic, the film was a massive success earning two Academy Awards nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Song. The audiences loved the film, and it was a blockbuster and one of the highest-grossing films of the year of its release. To this day, Sleepless in Seattle is celebrated as one of the best romantic comedy films in the history of cinema.
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Here comes the best of them all: You’ve Got Mail! A millionaire with a great flair for business drives the owner of a small children’s bookshop, inherited from her beloved mother, who died prematurely, into bankruptcy. Seen like this, You’ve Got Mail may look like a drama, but Nora Ephron exquisitely turned it into one of the best romantic titles of the 1990s.
The story tells the tale of Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly, who, despite living only two blocks away, meet in a chatroom, and there begins a friendship. After a long relationship cultivated via e-mail, the two decide to meet. And their lives will change forever.
The duet between Tom Hanks and Ryan was phenomenal. You’ve Got Mail entertains us, moves us to tears, and gives us two hours of flirtatious and uplifting cinema that make us feel good again; in other words, it is a feast for the soul!
Julie & Julia (2009)
Delicious, delicate and bittersweet, that’s what Julie & Julia is all about! For her latest film, Nora Ephron brought in not one but two big stars: Meryl Streep and Julia Child, the cookbook author and famous television personality on the American scene.
The biopic dedicated to small screen icon Julia Child brought back Ephron and Meryl Streep together to give us such a sweet film. Julie & Julia is the story of two women told in parallel, with moments of enormous psychological depth also thanks to Amy Adams’ superlative supporting performance.
A strange and touching film, Julie & Julia is one of the most melancholic scripts orchestrated by the great screenwriter and director.
The much-missed and celebrated Nora Ephron is a lot more than that unbeatable collection of unforgettable characters, steely dialogue and perfect scenes she has left behind. Whether in her journalistic work or in her film projects, whether behind the blank page or the imposing cameras, Nora Ephron always knew how to adapt her most representative virtues with that fantastic combination of charm and elegance at the forefront.