Nora Ephron's movie comedies became contemporary classics thanks to their screenwriter's intelligence and wit. Her death feels like the end of an era, one that saw women writers have new voice and female characters new depth on screen.
This Nov. 3, 2010 file photo shows author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron at her home in New York. Publisher Alfred A. Knopf confirmed Tuesday, June 26, 2012, that author and filmmaker Nora Ephron died Tuesday of leukemia in New York. She was 71. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, file)
Though she grew up in a family of screenwriters, Ephron got her start as a journalist, writing both spot-on satire and serious pieces that injected her own tastes and personality into her subject matter. With writing stints at The New York Post, Esquire and Cosmopolitan, she was able to develop her uniquely effective voice. 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 the truth is that her screenwriting career was about much more than “chick flicks.” In fact, it started with a film that wasn't even a comedy. Silkwood told the tale of environmental whistleblower Karen Silkwood, and the screenplay earned Ephron an Oscar nomination.
Ephron's final film, released three years ago, was no more romantic than Silkwood, though it offered a few more 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 Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Like Ephron's first movie, Julie & Julia was widely nominated for awards. (They both starred Meryl Streep, too, as did Ephron's early autobiographical drama Heartburn.)
Of course, we couldn't remember Nora Ephron without remembering one of her classic comedies. When Harry Met Sally was Ephron's first 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 prompted some of us to take a second look at a platonic friend.
Written by Linnea Crowther