Nora Ephron's movie comedies became contemporary classics thanks to their screenwriter's intelligence and wit. Her death last year felt like the end of an era, one that saw women writers have new voice and female characters new depth on screen. On the day when she would have turned 72, we remember a few of her cinematic triumphs. (AP Photo / Charles Sykes)
Though she grew up in a family of screenwriters, Nora Ephron got her start as a journalist. With writing stints at The New York Post, Esquire and Cosmopolitan, she was able to develop her uniquely effective voice, writing both spot-on satire and serious pieces that injected her own tastes and personality into her subject matter.
Ephron became widely known as a romantic comedy writer, thanks to the wild success of movies like When Harry Met Sally…, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. But her screenwriting career was about much more than "chick flicks." In fact, it started with a couple of dramas. Ephron wrote the screenplay for the Meryl Streep / Jack Nicholson pic Heartburn, based on her own semi-autobiographical book about the break-up of a marriage (hers to journalist Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame). Meanwhile, her screenplay for Silkwood – also starring Streep – told the tale of environmental whistleblower Karen Silkwood and earned Ephron an Oscar nomination.
Ephron's final film, released in 2009, was not a romantic comedy, but it did deliver some laughs. Julie & Julia was the first major motion picture based on a blog, The Julie/Julia Project, following one woman's journey through Julia Child's classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Like Heartburn and Silkwood, Julie & Julia starred Meryl Streep, who won a Golden Globe for her role.
Of course, we couldn't write about Ephron without remembering one of her classic comedies. When Harry Met Sally… was Ephron's first foray into romantic comedy, and it was a massive success, helping drive the genre for years to come. The movie made a romantic leading man out of comedian Billy Crystal, co-starred Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby, and launched the career of Meg Ryan, who would become another favorite star of Ephron's movies. Ryan said she loved working with Ephron because the writer understood women so well. When Harry Met Sally… made us laugh – and it prompted some of us to take a second look at a platonic friend.
Written by Linnea Crowther