Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dear Nora Ephron: Thanks for the Happy Memories

Very sad news this evening: Writer-Director Nora Ephron has passed away at the age of 71.

Ephron wrote and directed two great modern classics, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993) and YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998). Both films starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

YOU'VE GOT MAIL in particular is a very special film which is beloved by my entire family. I vividly remember the first time I saw it; I cried at the end, simply because the movie had made me so happy!

YOU'VE GOT MAIL has become part of the thread of all our lives, prompting my daughter to watch THE GODFATHER and my husband to send me daisies. My kids can all quote from it at length. When our daughter was away at college, we had to get a duplicate copy of the film so that we could each have a copy of the movie on our shelves at all times! It's a "go to" comfort film, the kind of movie that stays on the screen until it finishes if someone stumbles across a showing on TV, and more often than not someone in the family can be heard reciting the dialogue along with the characters.

As I wrote back in 2007, I also have Ephron to thank for introducing me to my favorite Nat King Cole album, LOVE IS THE THING. Cole's rendition of "Stardust," which appears on the soundtrack of SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, came from LOVE IS THE THING, and Ephron identified the album in her DVD commentary. That album was the beginning of my very large collection of Nat King Cole CDs.

Ephron also wrote the classic, and very quotable, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (1989), starring Ryan and Billy Crystal. Is there a more perfect film to watch on New Year's Eve?

I've always been fond of an older film Ephron wrote, HEARTBURN (1986), starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Although the overall plot trajectory, the breakup of a marriage, was a downer, the film has a very engaging, watchable quality, and I've seen it multiple times. It's interesting to note that food -- especially key lime pie -- was a theme in HEARTBURN; over two decades later Streep would star with Amy Adams in an Ephron film where food was the main focus, the excellent JULIE AND JULIA (2009).

Nora Ephron's parents, Henry and Phoebe Ephron, were also screenwriters, with their credits including the charming '40s comedies BRIDE BY MISTAKE (1944) and WALLFLOWER (1948), along with the '50s musicals DADDY LONG LEGS (1955) and CAROUSEL (1956). The Ephrons also wrote the Hepburn and Tracy office comedy DESK SET (1957); the workplace environment, with a "family" of coworkers finding their careers impacted by encroaching change, would later be echoed somewhat in their daughter's YOU'VE GOT MAIL.

Incidentally, BRIDE BY MISTAKE was a remake of a Norman Krasna script, THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD (1935). The Ephrons' updates included changing the name of the heroine from Dorothy to...Nora.

Nora Ephron had been working on a fantasy, LOST IN AUSTEN, and a biography of Peggy Lee. It is filmgoers' great loss that there will not be any more Nora Ephron movies to enjoy. She was a treasure, and I feel deep gratitude for the happiness that her work added to our lives.


Blogger barrylane said...

Don't forget Captain Newman in the Ephron filmography. Henry and Phoebe, that is.

7:42 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Awwww, that's sad news. I've admired her career, and actually did not realize she was over 70. I loved "When Harry Met Sally," though I've never seen "Sleepless in Seattle" or "You've Got Mail."

2:36 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Didn't know her parents were screenwriters also!

8:14 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

To paraphrase Doc Boone from "Stagecoach": Ephron - a familiar name and an honoured one.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

From Simple Gifts (posted with another post):

Thank you, Laura, for this wonderful tribute. So much of the humor today is distasteful but Nora Ephron had something different, a genuine intelligent wit. She will be missed. Jane

8:06 PM  

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