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Nora Ephron Dead at the Age of 71

Nora Ephron
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To name just a few of her credits, essayist, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron has passed away from  pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 71.

Born to the screenwriting couple Henry and Phoebe Ephron (who wrote films like ‘Desk Set’ and adapted ‘Carousel’ for the big screen), Ephron made a name for herself in journalism when she started at the New York Post in the 1960′s. It was there where she also started to write essays, often for Esquire, which brought her acclaim as a humorist.

Married three times, it was during her second to Carl Bernstein (from 1976 through 1980) where she got her first chance at screenwriting. She helped write a draft of ‘All the President’s Men’ that wasn’t used, but it did get her attention in Hollywood. It was also her marriage to Bernstein that led to her to write the novel ‘Heartburn,’ which was published in 1983, turned into a movie in 1986, and was a thinly veiled account of their marriage and his affairs.

Ephron took well to screenwriting, adapting the true story of Karen Silkwood (into ‘Silkwood’) and her own book ‘Heartburn’ for Mike Nichols, but it was 1989′s ‘When Harry Met Sally’ that turned her into a brand. Though the film was directed by Rob Reiner, it was Ephron who was seen as the heart and soul of the movie. Obviously indebted to Woody Allen‘s ‘Annie Hall,’ it was mature, smart and funny about love.

It was also a hit, one that opened doors, and by 1992 she was directing ‘This is My Life’ – one of her most personal works (it was written with her sister Delia Ephron). That film was barely released, but 1993′s ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ proved that ‘When Harry Met Sally’ was no fluke. The film starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and was one of the top five hits of the year. Much of what followed (films like ‘Mixed Nuts,’ ‘Michael,’ ‘Lucky Numbers’ and 2005′s troubled adaptation of ‘Bewitched,’) didn’t click with audiences, but she had a couple of hits when she reunited Hanks and Ryan for 1998′s ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and in 2009 with ‘Julie & Julia.’

Ephron, sadly, was one of the few female auteurs in American cinema. And when one reads her detractors, it seems that similar criticism are lobbed at all female filmmakers – when people talk poorly about her, it’s the same way they usually do about Barbra Streisand, Sofia Coppola or Diablo Cody. She had hits when she made romantic-comedies, but when she strayed from those films, she was left out to dry (fairly or unfairly). But she was unquestionably a great writer and a great wit.

Ephron leaves behind an amazing body of work, her screenwriter/author husband Nicholas Pileggi, and two sons: Jacob and Max Bernstein.

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