We all mourn the loss of the warm, wise, and witty writer/director Nora Ephron. As Adam Bernstein noted in his perceptive obituary for the Washington Post, she was always guided by the advice of her screenwriter parents to “take notes — everything is copy.” Bernstein describes her
razor-sharp self-awareness and the ambition to transform workaday absurdities, cultural idiosyncrasies, romantic foibles and even marital calamity into essays, novels and films brimming with invitingly mordant wit. She credited her mother with bestowing “this kind of terrific ability, not to avoid pain but to turn it over and recycle it as soon as possible.”
I first became of fan of Ephron through the columns she wrote about journalism (collected in Scribble Scribble) and women (collected in Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women), which were enormously influential for me in both form and voice. Slate Magazine’s wonderful “Dear Prudence” columnist, Emily Yoffe, wrote about how she was inspired and influenced by Ephron‘s “inimitable voice: sly, dry, witty, devastating, personal, hilarious.”
She is remembered for her romantic comedies, especially the classics “When Harry Met Sally….,” which she wrote, and “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail,” which she wrote and directed. But she also co-wrote the powerful and evocative drama, Silkwood. She took the most painful experience of her life, discovering that her husband was unfaithful to her when she was seven months pregnant with their second child, and followed her parents advice, turning it into the trenchantly funny novel and then movie Heartburn. Two of her films that I especially love are My Blue Heaven (I think it is adorable that she wrote a witty witness protection program romantic comedy as her husband’s non-fiction book was being turned in to the witness protection program drama “Goodfellas”) and “This is My Life,” with Julie Kavner as a single mother and stand-up comic struggling with life/work balance. She loved food (even included recipes in Heartburn), not surprising as her work was just plain tasty.
She has inspired some magnificent tributes, including Indiwire’s list of 10 of her best lines and this gorgeous piece by Lena Dunham of “Girls” that says so much about her wisdom and generosity — and the legacy of writers she inspired to find and own their voices. I loved the echo of “take notes” in her comforting response to Dunham’s failed brownies. Tom Hanks, who starred in her two best-loved films, wrote a warm and perceptive appreciation in Time Magazine, noting her insistance on telling details and distinctive voice. The producers of Ephron’s forthcoming Broadway show have promised the show will open, so we all have one more treat to look forward to. Celebrate Nora Ephron by sharing your favorite Ephron book or movie with someone you love. May her memory be a blessing.