RIP Nora Ephron

This came as a real shock to me: Nora Ephron, reporter and writer of engaging books and screenplays, died today at only 71.  The cause was myodysplasia, the same disease that killed Carl Sagan at 62. She got three Oscar nominations for screenplays: “Silkwood,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and “You’ve Got Mail.”  She also wrote the screenplay for “Sleepless in Seattle,” several books of essays, and the novel Heartburn, a lightly fictionalized account of her dysfunctional marriage to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein.

I’ve seen all of the movies mentioned above, and read Heartburn and two of her essay collections. Of these, I’d nominate the screenplays for “Silkwood” and “When Harry Met Sally” as her finest accomplishments.  Some found her romantic comedies schlocky, and yes, they have happy, tear-jerky endings, but the dialogue in “When Harry Met Sally” (the full movie is available on YouTube) is superb, and reminds me of my dolorous self when I dated happy, sunny shiksas in college.  And who could forget this scene with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, filmed in Katz’s Delicatessen in New York? The last line is sheer genius.


  1. Harry Greene
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, thanks so much for posting this…

  2. BilBy
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I forgot how funny that scene was

  3. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m amazed at the staying power of Harry/Sally now routinely hailed as one the greatest romantic comedies ever.

    Not to detract from Nora Ephron, but according to Imdb (which is sometimes wrong), that last line was written by Billy Crystal.

  4. Dawn Oz
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know that she died from the same disease as Sagan.

    One note from the Washington Post;

    ‘She observed to male studio moguls ‘a movie about a woman’s cure for cancer is less interesting than a movie about a man with a hangnail’.’

  5. Steve Wagner
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    That’s sad. My wife and I have spent countless hours enjoying her movies.

  6. tomh
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    A great line indeed, and director Rob Reiner proved a dutiful son by giving it to his mother to speak. The line was ranked 33rd on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 movie quotations, just behind Casablanca’s “Round up the usual suspects”.

  7. Dominic
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    I like funny romantic films & Nora Ephron did produce some great work. I am still in love with Meg Ryan!

  8. Jeff D
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Nora Ephron demonstrated her rare and fine wit in essays and interviews well before she moved into screenwriting and directing. I remember a great, funny, free-ranging interview that she did in the late 1970s with Tom Snyder, while promoting her book Scribble Scribble, in which she hit multiple targets in popular media and popular culture. Example: “Jacqueline Susann didn’t sit down one day and say to herself, ‘Okay, I am going to write a trashy novel.’ She just did the best she could.”

  9. BillyJoe
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 3:42 am | Permalink


    Actually it’s myelodysplasia (or myelodysplastic syndrome).

    • chascpeterson
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      myo- = muscle
      myelo- = myelin, a component of neurons.

      • Sigmund
        Posted June 27, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

        Not exactly. Myeloid refers to white blood cells that are not lymphoid cells (in other words those white blood cells that are not B-cells, T-cells and NK cells).

        • chascpeterson
          Posted June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

          yep, my bad; thanks.

  10. Blas
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    What do you understand for RIP?

    • chascpeterson
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

      “I hope you do not walk around after death as a zombie, vampire, ghost, or Messiah.”

  11. Josiah
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    NPR had a great retrospective on her life and career this morning. One of my favorite excerpts was a commentary she delivered about choosing to limit one’s scope of knowledge expansion. She listed a variety of topics, from the former Soviet Union to the Kardashians, that she intentionally chose to block from her intellectual repetoire. I find this kind of thinking so refreshing (provided it comes from someone who’s naturally curious). Erudition is a great thing, but it can become so overwhelming at to choose from the seemingly infinite pathways to knowledge attainment. And actually, it’s kind of an expansive mentality. Intentionally deciding not to pursue one topic allows for much more erudition that narrowing our focus in on another topic.
    All that said, everyone should still learn biology!

  12. Greg Peterson
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    In this context, an Ephron quote perhaps worth noting:

    “I said in the book [I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections] that it would be helpful to believe in God. It would be helpful, but I certainly know I’m not going to be one of those people with a deathbed conversion.” From Salon interview, Nov. 7, 2010.

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