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Nora Ephron From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nora Ephron

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Nora Ephron

Ephron in New York City, 2010
Born May 19, 1941
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died June 26, 2012 (aged 71)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia
Residence New York City, New York
Nationality American
Alma mater Wellesley College
Occupation Actress, screenwriter, producer, director, journalist, playwright
Years active 1973–2012
Notable work(s) SilkwoodWhen Harry Met Sally...Sleepless in Seattle,Julie & Julia
Home town New York City, New York
Spouse Dan Greenburg
(m. 1967-1976; divorced)
Carl Bernstein
(m. 1976-1980; divorced)
Nicholas Pileggi
(m. 1987–2012; her death)
Parents Henry Ephron,
Phoebe Wolkind
Awards BAFTA Award (1994), Crystal Award (1994), Ian McLellan Hunter Award (2003), Golden Apple Award (2009)

Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American filmmakerdirectorproducerscreenwriternovelistplaywright,journalistauthor, and blogger.

She is best known for her romantic comedies and was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay): for SilkwoodWhen Harry Met Sally... and Sleepless in Seattle. She won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay forWhen Harry Met Sally.... She sometimes wrote with her sister Delia Ephron.[1] Her last film was Julie & Julia.[1] She also co-authored the Drama Desk Award-winning theatrical production Love, Loss, and What I Wore.[1][2]



Early life

Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, in the Manhattan borough of New York City. She was the daughter of Phoebe (née Wolkind) andHenry Ephron.[1] Her parents were both screenwriters, born and raised on the US East Coast. Ephron was the eldest of four daughters in a Jewish family. When she was four years old, the family moved to Beverly Hills, California. She remained there until she graduated from Beverly Hills High School[1] and moved back East to attend Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.[3][4]

Ephron's sisters Delia and Amy are also screenwriters, while her sister Hallie Ephron is a journalist, book reviewer and novelist who writes crime fiction. Ephron's parents based Sandra Dee's character in the play and the Jimmy Stewart film Take Her, She's Mine on their 22-year-old daughter Nora and her letters to them from college.[5] Both parents became alcoholics during their declining years.[4]Ephron graduated from Beverly Hills High in 1958. It was during her junior year there that she became interested in journalism.[6] She majored in political science and wrote for the weekly newspaper at Wellesley, from which she graduated in 1962.[6][7]


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After Ephron graduated, she worked briefly as an intern in the White House of President John F. Kennedy,[8] and then moved to New York and became a "mail girl" at Newsweek.[9] She held that position for a year.[citation needed]

When New York City's newspapers suspended publication during a strike by the International Typographical Union, Ephron and some of her friends, including the young Calvin Trillin, put out their own satirical newspaper. Ephron's parodies of New York Post columnists caught the eye of the Post's publisher, Dorothy Schiff. When the strike was over, Schiff hired Ephron as a reporter. The 1960s were a lively time for journalism in New York and Dorothy Schiff's Post, at that time a liberal-leaning afternoon tabloid, offered Ephron a free hand to explore her favorite city from top to bottom.[8]

In 1966, she broke the news in the Post that Bob Dylan had married Sara Lownds in a private ceremony three-and-a-half months earlier.[10] While working at the Post, Ephron also began writing occasional essays for publications such as New York magazine,Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. Her work as a reporter won acclaim as part of the "New Journalism" movement of the 1960s, in which the author's personal voice became part of the story. Her humorous 1972 essay, "A Few Words About Breasts," made her name as an essayist. As a regular columnist for Esquire, and she became one of America's best-known humorists. Her essays, often focusing on sex, food and New York City, were collected in a series of best-selling volumes, Wallflower at the Orgy, Crazy Salad, and Scribble, Scribble.[8]

In this position, Ephron made a name for herself by taking on subjects as wide-ranging as Dorothy Schiff, her former boss and owner of the Post; Betty Friedan, whom she chastised for pursuing a feud with Gloria Steinem; and her alma mater Wellesley, which she said had turned out a generation of "docile" women."[5] A 1968 send-up of Women's Wear Daily in Cosmopolitan resulted in threats of a lawsuit from WWD.[5]

While married to Carl Bernstein in the mid-1970s, at his and Bob Woodward's request she helped Bernstein re-write William Goldman's script for All the President's Men, because the two journalists were not happy with it. The Ephron-Bernstein script was not used in the end, but was seen by someone who offered Ephron her first screenwriting job, for a television movie.[5]

Ephron enjoyed her greatest writing success with When Harry Met Sally (1989), a romantic comedy directed by Rob Reiner, starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The film struck an instant chord with audiences and became an international hit. Ephron had seen her parents' writing careers falter in the 1950s,[citation needed] as they both fell prey to alcohol and the fickle fashions of Hollywood.[8] Ephron contemplated a transition to directing, in part to protect her own writing career in an industry still largely inhospitable to films by or about women.[citation needed] Unfortunately, This Is My Life (1992), her directing debut, about the struggles of a single mother working as a stand-up comic, was a box office disappointment.[citation needed] Ephron knew her future as a director would stand or fall with her next assignment.[8]

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) was co-written by Nora Ephron and her younger sister, Delia. Director Nora cast Harry and Sally star Meg Ryan, teaming her with Tom Hanks. The resulting film was an enormous success, and Ephron was now established as Hollywood's foremost creator of romantic comedies. A follow-up film, Mixed Nuts (1994), was a commercial disappointment, but Michael (1996), starring John Travolta as an angel, enjoyed solid success at the box office. In You've Got Mail (1998), Ephron re-united Sleeplessstars Hanks and Ryan in a contemporary variation on the classic comedy, The Shop Around the Corner (1940). Ephron's film also serves as a love letter to her beloved Upper West Side. With You've Got Mail, the team of Ephron, Ryan and Hanks scored another huge success.[8]

In the following years, Ephron pursued a wide variety of projects. She made an unexpected foray into writing for the stage with her 2002 play Imaginary Friends, based on the turbulent rivalry of authors Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. She coauthored the play Love, Loss, and What I Wore (based on the book by Ilene Beckerman) with her sister, Delia and it has played to sold out audiences in Canada, New York City, and The Geffen Playhouse in California. She took another unusual tack with an offbeat big-screen adaptation of the 1960s television series Bewitched, starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.

In 1994, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award.[11]

In 1996 she gave the commencement address at Wellesley College, her alma mater.[7]

In 2002 she produced New York Tribute, a film of collected clips from New York movies for the 2002 Academy Awards. Her 2006 collection of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman, immediately shot to number one on the The New York Times Best Seller list. In 2007, Ephron appeared in the feature-length documentary Dreams on Spec, which profiled three aspiring Hollywood screenwriters and offered wisdom from big-name writers like James L. BrooksCarrie Fisher, and herself.[citation needed]

In her film Julie & Julia (2009), she returned to a favorite subject — food — by telling the parallel stories of prominent food writer Julia Child and a contemporary Manhattan woman who sets out to cook her way through every recipe in Childs's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The film starred Ephron's friend and previous collaborator, Meryl Streep, as Julia Child. In addition to her books, plays and movies, Ephron wrote a regular blog for the online news site The Huffington Post. Her 2010 collection of essays, I Remember Nothing, takes a humorous look at the aging process and other topics.[8]

Personal life

Ephron was married three times. Her first marriage, to writer Dan Greenburg, ended in divorce after nine years.[4] Her second was in 1976 to journalist Carl Bernstein, involved in exposing Watergate.[12] Ephron had an infant son, Jacob, and was pregnant with her second son, Max, in 1979 when she found out that Bernstein was having an affair with their mutual friend,[13] the married British politician Margaret Jay. These events inspired Ephron to write the 1983 novel Heartburn,[14][12]which was made into a 1986 film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep with a screenplay by Ephron. In the book, she wrote of a husband named Mark, who was "capable of having sex with a Venetian blind".[4] She also said that the character Thelma (based on Margaret Jay) looked like a giraffe with big feet.[4] Bernstein threatened to sue over the book and film, but he never did.[5]

Ephron was married for more than 20 years to her third husband, screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, with whom she lived in New York City until her death.[12]

Although Jewish by birth, Ephron was not religious. "You can never have too much butter – that is my belief. If I have a religion, that's it," she quipped in an NPR interview about her 2009 movie, Julie & Julia.[15]

Ephron and Deep Throat

For many years, Ephron claimed to be among only a handful of people who knew the identity of Deep Throat, the source for news articles written by her husband Carl Bernsteinduring the Watergate scandal.[16] Ephron claims to have guessed the identity of Deep Throat through clues left by Bernstein.[16] Among them was the fact that Bernstein referred to the source as "My Friend", the same initials as Mark Felt, whom some (correctly) suspected to be Bernstein's source.[16]

Ephron's marriage with Bernstein ended acrimoniously, and Ephron was not secretive about the identity of Deep Throat.[4] She told her son Jacob and has said that she told anyone who asked. "I would give speeches to 500 people and someone would say, 'Do you know who Deep Throat is?' And I would say, 'It's Mark Felt.'"[4] Classmates of Jacob Bernstein at the Dalton School and Vassar College recall Jacob revealing to numerous people that Felt was Deep Throat. The claims did not garner attention from the media during the many years that the identity of Deep Throat was a mystery. Ephron was invited by Arianna Huffington to write about the experience in The Huffington Post, and she went on to blog regularly for the site.[1][12][16]


On June 26, 2012, at the age of 71,[1] Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia,[1] a condition with which she was diagnosed in 2006.[17]In her most recent book, I Remember Nothing (2010), Ephron left clues that something was wrong or that she was sick.[18] There was widespread reaction to her death with celebrities such as Meryl StreepBilly CrystalMeg RyanTom HanksAlbert Brooks and Ron Howard commenting on her brilliance, warmth and wit.[19][20]


Awards and nominations

Essay collections

  • Wallflower at the Orgy (1970)
  • Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women (1975), ISBN 978-0394497358
  • The Boston Photographs (1975)
  • Scribble, Scribble: Notes on the Media (1978), ISBN 978-0394501253
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (2006)
  • I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections (2010)


  • "Like most of my contemporaries, I first read The Fountainhead when I was 18 years old. I loved it. I too missed the point. I thought it was a book about a strong-willed architect...and his love life....I deliberately skipped over all the passages about egoism and altruism. And I spent the next year hoping I would meet a gaunt, orange-haired architect who would rape me. Or failing that, an architect who would rape me. Or failing that, an architect. I am certain that The Fountainhead did a great deal more for architects than Architectural Forum ever dreamed." The New York Times Book Review (1968)
  • " can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream." Heartburn
  • "Maybe young women don't wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all." 1996 Wellesley commencement.[7]


  1. a b c d e f g h Charles Mcgrath (June 26, 2012). "Writer and Filmmaker With a Genius for Humor"The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  2. ^ "Ragtime, The Scottsboro Boys, The Addams Family and Finian's Rainbow Top Nominations for 2010 Drama Desk Awards". May 3, 2010.
  3. ^ Telegraph obituary
  4. a b c d e f g Hawkins, Ed (March 4, 2007). "Get real – ageing's not all Helen Mirren".The Times (London). Retrieved August 16, 2007.[verification needed]
  5. a b c d e Brockes, Emma (March 2, 2007). "Everything is copy"The Guardian(London). Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  6. a b Keller, George (April 1970). "Nora Ephron: Tattling on Academe". Change 10 (4): 38–41. DOI:10.2307/40177053JSTOR 40177053.
  7. a b c "Nora Ephron '62 addressed the graduates in 1996". Wellesley College.
  8. a b c d e f g "Nora Ephron Biography". American Academy of Achievement. November 9, 2010. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  9. ^ Gail Collins (June 27, 2012). "The Best Mailgirl ever"The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  10. ^ "No Direction Home". Da Capo Press. 1986. Retrieved January 7, 2009.
  11. ^ "Past Recipients: Crystal Award". Women In Film. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  12. a b c d "Writer-filmmaker Nora Ephron dies at 71". The Washington Examiner. 2012-06-27. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
  13. ^ "For the truly vengeful, the pen (or word processor) is mightier than the sword".Cosmopolitan. July 1, 1996. Retrieved August 17, 2007.
  14. ^ Rusty Unger (July 31, 2001). "Baroness Jay's political progress"BBC News Online. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  15. ^ Powell, Julie (2009-08-07). "Nora Ephron On Julie, Julia And Cooking Like A Child".NPR. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
  16. a b c d Ephron, Nora (May 31, 2005). "Deep Throat and Me: Now It Can Be Told, and Not for the First Time Either"The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
  17. ^ Adam Bernstein (June 26, 2012). "Nora Ephron, prolific author and screenwriter, dies at age 71"The Washington Post. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  18. ^ Friedman, Roger (June 26, 2012). "Nora Ephron Left Clues About Dying In Her Final Book". Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  19. ^ "Celebrities react to the death of Nora Ephron"The Philadelphia Inquirer. Associated Press. June 27, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  20. ^ Matt Donnelly (June 26, 2012). "Nora Ephron: Celebs, Hollywood react to her death"Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  21. ^ "Nora Ephron- Awards". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 3, 2012.

External links

Films directed by Nora Ephron