When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail are among my list of favorite movies of all time. All three were written by Nora Ephron, who died Tuesday at age 71. Ephron was not only an accomplished screenwriter and director, but a prolific essayist, playwright and author.
With her three most famous movies, Ephron proved that a romantic comedy didn’t have to be cheesy or just enjoyed by women. He may not freely admit it, but my father enjoys You’ve Got Mail almost as much as I do. And although now Meg Ryan’s shoulder pads and mom jeans seem outdated, when Ephron wrote these films, they were revolutionary because she was one of the first to insist that silly movies could be smart. She demanded that a RomCom with a fake orgasm scene (When Harry Met Sally), could actually be commentary on relationships and marriage and be hilarious at the same time.
To me, she was an idol. She was brilliant and charming, and dedicated her life to telling stories. Her novel Heartburn about the failure of her marriage to Carl Bernstein is a wonderful book (and the reason I want a cookbook library annex to my kitchen when I am old and rich). Not every single thing she wrote was an enormous success, like the film adaptation of Heartburn or the movie Bewitched (which I am actually rather fond of), but she kept working because she loved doing it. She was constantly blogging, writing essays, writing scripts up until the very end.
Ephron’s humor and zeal permeated everything she did. She was an inspiration to me and to writers and readers everywhere. I am heartbroken that I will no longer have her blog posts and short stories to look forward to. But mostly I am sad that I will no longer have her lines; her perfect sentences that say so much in so few words like this one from Heartburn: “I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.”