Tuesday, June 26, 2012

a storyteller worth remembering.

she was a writing hero of mine.

i saw heartburn — a movie she wrote
based upon a novel she wrote
based upon her failed marriage to
watergate reporter carl bernstein —
in 1986, & i fell in love.

i fell in love with nora ephron.

[& meryl streep, but who isn't
in love with meryl streep?]

i scoured half-price bookstores searching for
out-of-print collections of her essays.

for a big-haired, curvy girl from texas,
trying to be taken seriously as a woman & a writer,
nora was the real deal:
a witty, wiry, jewish new yorker,
a first-wave feminist who also apparently
wanted a husband, children & a home with a fresh coat of paint.

& when i had read & re-read her earlier essay collections —
crazy salad, scribble scribble, wallflower at the orgy
i thought i was in as deep as i possibly could be.

& then she wrote when harry met sally ... .

oy, vey.

& so it's with a truly heavy heart
i eulogize nora ephron, hero writer.

she was a humorist,
a journalist,
an essayist,
a novelist,
a playwright,
an oscar-nominated screenwriter,
a filmmaker,
a three-time wife
& a two-time mom.

nora ephron was born on may 19, 1941,
on the upper west side of manhattan.
she was the eldest of an all-girl quartet —
delia, amy & hallie her younger sisters.

all four became writers.

they came by it honestly, being the daughters
of hollywood screenwriters henry & phoebe,
who together penned the scripts of movies like
carousel & there's no business like show business,
among others.

[eventually, they wrote a screenplay based upon
nora during her college years;
take her, she's mine starred the extremely unlikely
casting choice of sandra dee as the nora-like lead.]

nora was only 4yo when her family moved to california.
she graduated from beverly hills high school,
& returned eastward to go to the all-women college of wellesley,
where she began writing for the school newspaper.

in the summer of 1961, she served as an intern
in the kennedy white house . . . later in life,
she feigned disappointment at being the only intern
president kennedy never chatted up.

nora graduated in 1962, & moved to nyc to become a journalist.
she became a mail girl at newsweek.
during the '62 newspaper strike, she contributed to a parody
of the new york post & the paper's publisher,
dorothy schiff, was impressed enough to hire her for realz.
nora stayed at the post for five years,
covering stories like the beatles' british invasion, &
a pair of seals at the coney island aquarium who refused to mate.

in the late 1960s, nora turned to magazine journalism,
writing keen, candid essays for the likes of esquire & new york.

she married & divorced prolific author dan greenburg.

in 1976, she married bernstein, who helped her career dually:
first, his discontent with the screenplay for
all the president's men led to him & nora trying to rework it —
her first experience with screenwriting; &
second, the couple's devastating divorce
led to nora's bestselling novel & eventual third film, heartburn.

nora developed her first original screenplay with friend alice arlen.
it was silkwood. picked up by award-winning director mike nichols,
it became the 1983 film starring award-winning actress meryl streep.

three years later, nora, nichols & streep reunited for heartburn.

three years later, rob reiner directed when harry met sally ... ,
a huge hit which established nora's gift for
romantic comedies & happy endings.

three years later, nora decided to try directing —
because, according to nora, she knew how powerless screenwriters are,
& she knew hollywood wasn't too interested in
making movies by or about women.

nora's directorial debut was this is my life,
a screenplay written with her sister delia,
based upon the novel by meg wolitzer.
it was sort of a flop.

but her next two films — sleepless in seattle
& you've got mail — both starring tom hanks & meg ryan,
were HUGE.

nora went on to write & direct several more hits,
including michael ['96], bewitched [2005] & her final film,
julie & julia [2009] — which also starred her now longtime gal pal, meryl.

nora received three oscar nominations
for best screenplay with silkwood, harry+sally &
sleepless. she also successfully returned to essay-writing
with the collections i feel bad about my neck & i remember nothing.
& she became an enthusiastic blogger for the huffington post.

in-between all that career, nora married italian author nick pileggi
— this third time, in 1987, the charm. [nick + nora? perfect!]

several years ago, she was diagnosed with a pre-leukemia condition
called myelodysplastic syndrome, but didn't reveal it publicly.

nora ephron died at 71yo of complications from the condition.
she leaves behind her husband, two sons by bernstein, & her sisters.

& me, an aspiring writer & woman in mourning
over the loss of a profoundly inspiring one.

here's a little quintessential ephron for your enjoyment —
nora speaking @ the 2004 american film institute
lifetime achievement award presentation for meryl streep:

image source: washington post.

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