Nytimes Obit Nora Ephron Essays

Nora Ephron

Ephron at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival

Born(1941-05-19)May 19, 1941
New York City, U.S.
DiedJune 26, 2012(2012-06-26) (aged 71)
New York City, U.S.
Cause of deathPneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia
Alma materWellesley College
OccupationScreenwriter, producer, director, journalist, playwright, author
Years active1973–2012
Notable workSilkwood, When Harry Met Sally..., Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia
Spouse(s)
Children2
Parent(s)Henry Ephron,
Phoebe Wolkind
Awards
  • BAFTA Award (1990)
  • Crystal Award (1994)
  • Ian McLellan Hunter Award (2003)
  • Golden Apple Award (2009)

Nora Ephron (EF-rən;[1] May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American writer and filmmaker. She is best known for her romantic comedy films and was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing: for Silkwood (1983), When Harry Met Sally... (1989), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). She won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally.... She sometimes wrote with her sister Delia Ephron. Her last film was Julie & Julia.[2] Her first produced play, Imaginary Friends (2002), was honored as one of the ten best plays of the 2002-03 New York theatre season.[3] She also co-authored the Drama Desk Award–winning theatrical production Love, Loss, and What I Wore.[2][4] In 2013, Ephron received a posthumous Tony Award nomination for Best Play for Lucky Guy.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Ephron was born in New York City, the eldest of four daughters, and grew up in Beverly Hills.[6] Her parents, Henry and Phoebe (née Wolkind) Ephron, were both East Coast-born and were noted playwrights and screenwriters. Nora's younger sisters, Delia and Amy, are also screenwriters. Her sister Hallie Ephron is a journalist, book reviewer, and novelist who writes crime fiction. Ephron's parents based the ingenue character in the play and film version of Take Her, She's Mine on the 22-year-old Nora and her letters from college.[7] Both her parents became alcoholics during their declining years.[6] Ephron graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1958, and from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1962 with a degree in political science.[8]

She was married three times. Her first marriage, to writer Dan Greenburg, ended in divorce after nine years.[6] In 1976, she married journalist Carl Bernstein. In 1979, Ephron had a toddler son, Jacob, and was pregnant with her second son Max when she discovered Bernstein's affair with their mutual friend,[9] married British politician Margaret Jay. Ephron was inspired by this to write the 1983 novel Heartburn,[10] which was then made into a 1986 Mike Nichols film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. In the book, Ephron wrote of a husband named Mark, who was "capable of having sex with a Venetian blind."[6] She also wrote that the character Thelma (based on Margaret Jay) looked like a giraffe with "big feet".[6] Bernstein threatened to sue over the book and film but never did.[7]

Ephron was married for more than 20 years to screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi until her death. The couple lived in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, and in New York City.

Ephron was Jewish by birth. Ephron's friend Richard Cohen said of her, "She was very Jewish, culturally and emotionally. She identified fully as a Jewish woman."[11] However, Ephron was not religious. "You can never have too much butter – that is my belief. If I have a religion, that's it", she quipped in an NPR interview about her 2009 movie, Julie & Julia.[12]

Her son, Jacob Bernstein, directed an HBO movie on her life called Everything Is Copy.[13]

Career[edit]

After graduating from Wellesley College in 1962, Ephron worked briefly as an intern in the White House of President John F. Kennedy.[14] She also applied to be a writer at Newsweek. After she was told they did not hire women writers, she accepted a position as a mail girl.[15]

After eventually quitting Newsweek because she was not allowed to write, Ephron participated in a class action lawsuit against the magazine for sexual discrimination, described in the book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich, and both the lawsuit and Ephron’s role were fictionalized in a 2016 Amazon series by the similar main title Good Girls Revolt.[16]

After a satire she wrote lampooning the New York Post caught the editor's eye, Ephron accepted a job at the Post, where she worked as a reporter for five years.[7] In 1966, she broke the news in the Post that Bob Dylan had married Sara Lownds in a private ceremony.[17] Upon becoming a successful writer, she wrote a column on women's issues for Esquire.[6] In this position, Ephron made a name for herself by taking on subjects as wide-ranging as Dorothy Schiff, her former boss and owner of the Post; Betty Friedan, whom she chastised for pursuing a feud with Gloria Steinem; and her alma mater Wellesley, which she said had turned out "a generation of docile and unadventurous women."[7] A 1968 send-up of Women's Wear Daily in Cosmopolitan resulted in threats of a lawsuit from WWD.[7]

She rewrote a script for All the President's Men in the mid-1970s, along with her then husband Bernstein. While the script was not used, it was seen by someone who offered Ephron her first screenwriting job, for a television movie,[7] which began her screenwriting career.[18]

In 1983, Ephron coscripted the film Silkwood with Alice Arlen. The film, directed by Mike Nichols, stars Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood, a whistleblower at the Kerr McGee Cimarron nuclear facility who dies under suspicious circumstances.[19] Ephron and Arlen were nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 1984 for Silkwood.[20]

In 1994, she was awarded the Women in FilmCrystal Award.[21] Ephron's 2002 play Imaginary Friends explores the rivalry between writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. She co-authored the play Love, Loss, and What I Wore (based on the book by Ilene Beckerman) with her sister Delia, and it has played to sold out audiences in Canada, New York City and Los Angeles.[citation needed]

Ephron and Deep Throat[edit]

For many years, Ephron was among only a handful of people in the world who knew the true identity of Deep Throat, the source for news articles written by her ex-husband Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal.[22] Ephron claimed she had guessed the identity of Deep Throat after reading Bernstein's notes, which referred to the unnamed person as "MF".[22] Bernstein claimed "MF" was short for "My Friend," but Ephron guessed correctly that the initials stood for Mark Felt, the former associate director of the FBI.[22]

Ephron's marriage with Bernstein ended acrimoniously, and after the breakup Ephron was open about the identity of Deep Throat.[6] She revealed his identity to her son Jacob and anyone else who asked. She once commented, "I would give speeches to 500 people and someone would say, 'Do you know who Deep Throat is?' And I would say, 'It's Mark Felt.'"[6] Classmates of Jacob Bernstein at the Dalton School and Vassar College recall Jacob's revealing to numerous people that Felt was Deep Throat. This revelation attracted little media attention during the many years that the identity of Deep Throat was a mystery. Ephron later conceded that "No one, apart from my sons, believed me."[23] Ephron was invited by Arianna Huffington to write about the experience in the Huffington Post, for which she was a regular blogger and part-time editor.[22]

Death[edit]

On June 26, 2012, Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia,[2] which she was diagnosed with in 2006.[24]

In her final book, I Remember Nothing (2010), Ephron left clues that something was wrong with her or that she was ill, particularly in a list at the end of the book citing "things I won't miss/things I'll miss".[25]

Many people were taken by surprise by the notice of her death as she had kept her illness secret from most people. Meryl Streep, Bette Midler, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Matthew Broderick, Rosie O'Donnell, Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Albert Brooks, and Ron Howard commented on her brilliance, warmth, generosity, and wit.[26][27]

At the Karlovy Vary Film Festival of that year, actresses Helen Mirren and Susan Sarandon, who were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, paid tribute to her during their speeches.

The 2017 film, The Post, is dedicated to her.

Nora Ephron Prize[edit]

The Nora Ephron Prize is a $25,000 award by the Tribeca Film Festival for a female writer or filmmaker "with a distinctive voice".[28] The first Nora Ephron Prize was awarded in 2013 to Meera Menon for her film Farah Goes Bang.[28]

Filmography[edit]

Feature films[edit]

Plays[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Essay collections and other works[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^"Delia Ephron on the Closeness and Complexity of Sisterhood". Fresh Air. NPR. December 9, 2013. Event occurs at 1:18–1:44. Retrieved December 11, 2013.  Interview.
  2. ^ abcCharles Mcgrath (June 26, 2012). "Writer and Filmmaker With a Genius for Humor". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  3. ^The best plays of 2002-2003. Jenkins, Jeffrey Eric. (84th ed ed.). [New York]: Limelight Editions. 2004. ISBN 0879103035. OCLC 55139647. 
  4. ^"Ragtime, The Scottsboro Boys, The Addams Family and Finian's Rainbow Top Nominations for 2010 Drama Desk Awards". In 2013, she received a posthumous Tony Award nomination for Best Play for Lucky Guy, her last play, on May 3, 2010.
  5. ^Cadenas, Kerensa (May 2, 2013). "Nora Ephron, Cyndi Lauper Among Tony Award Nominees". IndieWire. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  6. ^ abcdefghHawkins, Ed (March 4, 2007). "Get real – ageing's not all Helen Mirren". The Times. London, UK. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  7. ^ abcdefBrockes, Emma (March 3, 2007). "Everything is copy". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  8. ^Bergan, Ronald (2012-06-27). "Nora Ephron obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-22. 
  9. ^"For the truly vengeful, the pen (or word processor) is mightier than the sword". Cosmopolitan. July 1, 1996. Retrieved August 17, 2007. 
  10. ^"Baroness Jay's political progress". BBC News. July 31, 2001. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  11. ^Glassman, Thea (12 September 2016). "Richard Cohen and Nora Ephron: The Real-Life Harry and Sally". The Forward. The Forward Organization, Inc. Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  12. ^"Nora Ephron On Julie, Julia And Cooking Like A Child". NPR.org. August 7, 2009. 
  13. ^"Nora Ephron's son to make documentary about her life". 3 News NZ. April 9, 2013. 
  14. ^News, ABC. "Nora Ephron: From D.C. Intern to Hollywood Hit". ABC News. Archived from the original on November 28, 2016. Retrieved November 28, 2016. 
  15. ^Collins, Gail (2012-06-27). "Nora Ephron, the Best Mailgirl Ever". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-26. 
  16. ^Nguyen, Hanh. "'Good Girls Revolt': The Women Who Fought for Equality in the Newsroom | IndieWire". www.indiewire.com. Retrieved 2016-11-26. 
  17. ^"No Direction Home". Da Capo Press. 1986. Retrieved January 7, 2009. 
  18. ^"Nora Ephron - Academy of Achievement". Academy of Achievement. Retrieved 2017-03-22. 
  19. ^"AFI|Catalog". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  20. ^"Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive". Boxoffice. April 1, 1984. 
  21. ^"Past Recipients: Crystal Award". Women in Film. Archived from the original on June 30, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2011. 
  22. ^ abcdEphron, Nora (May 31, 2005). "Deep Throat and Me: Now It Can Be Told, and Not for the First Time Either". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 19, 2008. 
  23. ^"Nora Ephron". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. June 27, 2012. 
  24. ^Adam Bernstein (June 26, 2012). "Nora Ephron, prolific author and screenwriter, dies at age 71". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  25. ^Friedman, Roger (June 26, 2012). "Nora Ephron Left Clues About Dying in Her Final Book". Showbiz411.com. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  26. ^"Celebrities react to the death of Nora Ephron". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Associated Press. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  27. ^Matt Donnelly. "Nora Ephron: Celebs, Hollywood react to her death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  28. ^ abGoodman, Stephanie (April 25, 2013). "Nora Ephron Prize Is Given to Director of Farah Goes Bang". The New York Times. 
  29. ^Borrelli, Christopher (27 September 2011). "'Teen Wolf' director's brutally honest commentary". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  30. ^Yardley, Jonathan (2 November 2004). "Nora Ephron's 'Crazy Salad': Still Crisp". The Washington Post. 

External links[edit]

  • Nora Ephron on IMDb
  • Nora Ephron at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
  • Nora Ephron at the TCM Movie Database
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Nora Ephron on Charlie Rose
  • "Nora Ephron collected news and commentary". The New York Times. 
  • "Nora Ephron collected news and commentary". The Guardian. 
  • Works by or about Nora Ephron in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • John Williams (June 27, 2012). "Nora Ephron, the Queen of Quips". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  • Frank Bruni (June 27, 2012). "At the Table, Nora Ephron Knew Best". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  • Julia Moskin (June 27, 2012). "Nora Ephron Never Forgot the Food". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  • Neri Livneh (July 5, 2012), "Neri Livneh salutes her heroine, Nora Ephron"
  • "Plays by Nora Ephron". Doollee.
  • Nora Ephron Video produced by Makers: Women Who Make America
  • Movie clips: "The Films of Nora Ephron" on YouTube, compilation, 5 min.
  • "Nora Ephron". Find a Grave. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 

Before she felt bad about her neck, Nora Ephron felt bad about her breasts. When she was a 19-year-old virgin, her boyfriend’s mother offered a suggestion: “Always make sure you’re on top of him so you won’t seem so small.”

At first, as Ephron wrote in her column in Esquire, she thought her beau had put the woman up to it, but she later decided, “The mother was acting on her own, I think: that was her way of being cruel and competitive under the guise of being helpful and maternal. You have small breasts, she was saying; therefore you will never make him as happy as I have. Or you have small breasts; therefore you will doubtless have sexual problems. Or you have small breasts; therefore you are less woman than I am.”

At the time, these words blew past all sorts of taboos and felt thrilling and brave. There were lots of feminists discussing body image in the 1970s, but Ephron was the first to do so with squirm-inducing, self-deprecating humor.

When the news broke yesterday that Ephron had died, I happened to be in the company of women who’d known and admired her, and the tributes began. As Janet Maslin put it, “Dorothy Parker set an example for scathingly smart female journalists of Ms. Ephron’s generation, but Ms. Ephron’s five-decade-long career outdid that. It’s now the Nora Ephron problem instead.”

Ephron’s bluntness could be breathtaking. Has anyone ever worked through a grisly divorce more profitably than she did with Heartburn (1996)? She was a feminist, but just because you were a woman didn’t mean you got a pass. Consider her comments on Phyllis Chesler’s Women and Madness, part of the collection of essays in Crazy Salad (1975):

I agree with the book politically. What Chesler is saying is that the psychological professional has always applied a double standard when dealing with women; that psychological definitions of madness have been dictated by what men believe women’s role ought to be; and this is wrong. Right on, Phyllis. But here is the book: it is badly written and self-indulgent, and the research seems to me to be full of holes. If I say this, though, I will hurt the book politically…. On the other hand, if I fail to say that there are problems with the book, I’m applying a double standard of my own, treating works that are important to the movement differently than others: babying them, tending to gloss over their faults, gentling the author as if she and her book were somehow incapable of withstanding a single carping clause. Her heart is in the right place; why knock her when there are so many truly evil books around? This is what’s known in the women’s movement as sisterhood, and it is good politics, I suppose, but it doesn’t make for good criticism. Or honesty. Or the truth.

At the time, the directness of this assessment made me gasp. It seemed incredibly daring.

Many years later, when I was working on a Women in Hollywood issue of Premiere magazine, Ephron asked not to be included in the oral history since, she said, most of the women she’d met in Tinsel Town actually hadn’t been helpful as she broke a path for herself. As The New York Times obit noted, in her last book, I Remember Nothing, one of the items on her list of things she’d just as soon forget is “panels on Women in Film.”

Ephron herself, on the other hand, was plenty generous, particularly to young women writers. I remember the thrill of hearing from a casual business contact that Ephron had told her she should keep an eye on my work. At the time, I had never met either of them, and it made me feel as if I’d somehow been drawn into a sort of secret journalista support network.

Because of Nora Ephron, yes, there is the Nora Ephron problem, but there are also dozens of frank, funny, unapologetic women writers such as Alex Leo and Alyssa Rosenberg and Emily Yoffe, living by Ephron’s immortal comment, passed down by her parents, that no matter what happens in life, “it’s all material.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Cyndi Stivers is a former editor in chief of CJRTags: feminism, In Memoriam, Nora Ephron, The New York Times

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