Thank you Nora Ephron for your wonderful rom-coms!

Multi-talented writer/director Nora Ephron died Tuesday at the age of 71. I regretfully wasn’t aware that she was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia and to me, she always looked younger than her age. A tinge of sadness came over me when I heard of her passing. Well, for one, there just aren’t enough female filmmakers in Hollywood as it is and now one of the best has left us. I brought up the issue of the lack of female filmmakers during the Women Filmmakers panel at TCFF last year, and some of the female directors there acknowledged the struggle of being in a business strongly-dominated by men.

But Ephron, who was born in Manhattan to parents who were both screenwriters, was one of the few who thrived in Hollywood. Writing was definitely in her blood as her sisters Delia and Amy are also screenwriters, while her sister Hallie Ephron, is a journalist, book reviewer and novelist who writes crime fiction (per Wiki). She was triple-nominated for Academy Award for Best Original Screenplays: Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. I have not seen the first one, but the last two, as well as You’ve Got Mail, are amongst my favorite romantic comedies.

One of the actors who owed it to Ephron for her success was Meg Ryan, she starred in three of Ephron’s films and one of those films made her a star. “Nora was an era,” Ryan’s quoted as saying on this website, and you know what, she was. Her sophisticated and witty writing made rom-coms a genre that wasn’t frowned upon by critics nor audiences like it is today. As one of her personal friends Aaron Sorkin in this article astutely put it, “She wrote romantic comedy in a style we don’t see much anymore… Her spirit was really in it because she loved it so much. She loved film so much…”

Meg Ryan shines in Ephron’s Films

What I LOVE about Ephron’s rom-coms are how funny and heartwarming they are. The characters and stories are inherently sweet but not banal or hackneyed, and the actors in her movies embody their roles so well that they don’t seem like they’re acting. Unlike some of today’s rom-com stars, the actors aren’t *perfect looking* but they’ve got screen charisma and appeal to go with her charming scripts. Her films are packed with wonderful dialog, lines such as these…

“I’ll have what she’s having,”

“A movie! That’s your problem! You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.”

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

“It was a million tiny little things that when you add them up it meant that we were supposed to be together, and I knew it. I knew it the first time I touched her. It was like coming home. Only to no home that I’d ever known. I was just taking her hand to help her out of the car, and I knew it. It was like magic.”

That last long line from Sleepless is when Tom Hanks’ Sam Baldwin describes his late wife to a late-night radio show host. It always makes me tear up every time I watch it. It’s one of the most genuinely romantic and heartfelt scenes tinged with such poignancy.

She also wrote scenes that are iconic, there’s barely any rom-coms these days that have such indelible scenes such as the diner’s fake-orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally, or that Sleepless‘ finale up on the Empire State Building. The supporting characters are well-written too, they are memorable even in bit parts: Paul Child in Julie & Julia, Rob Reiner as Hanks’ buddy in Sleepless, Dave Chappelle as Hanks’ right-hand man and Greg Kinnear as Ryan’s technology-loathing boyfriend in You’ve Got Mail, the list goes on. In fact, one of my favorite scenes in Sleepless involves a minor character played by Hanks’ own wife Rita Wilson. The way her character describes a scene from An Affair to Remember is a hoot and the guys’ reaction just perfectly captures the amusing contrast between male/female dynamics. I LOVE this scene!

I also appreciate that Ephron wrote strong female characters, but yet they aren’t unrealistically so. They are quirky but relatable and also have such likability quality about them that I could see them as my own friends. They also have a lot going on in their lives instead of just being the subject of the romance of the story. Julia Child in Julie & Julia has her passion and love for cooking, Sleepless‘ Annie is a successful journalist, and You’ve Got Mail‘s Kathleen Kelly has her bookstore to save. It’s obvious Ephron is a romantic at heart, and she combines that beautifully with her intelligence and sense of humor in her writing. I wish she had made more movies in her lifetime, but one thing for sure, her legacy shall lives on in her work.

Lastly, her movies always have such great music. Sleepless in Seattle is one of my favorite soundtracks that’s packed with classic tunes. I’ll leave you with this one song from Harry Connick Jr. Nora Ephron and great rom-coms go together like a wink and a smile 😀

So what’s YOUR favorite Nora Ephron movie(s)?

38 thoughts on “Thank you Nora Ephron for your wonderful rom-coms!

  1. Ted S.

    That’s a nice tribute Ruth, I didn’t know she was so sick either. No wonder she hasn’t made a film in a while. I’m not into rom-coms but Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail are the two films I’ve seen many times. Her rom-coms just feel natural as oppose to the junk rom-coms Hollywood gave us.

    She’ll be missed big time.

    1. Thanks Ted. Ephron’s rom-coms are such a different breed from today’s offerings, glad you enjoyed those two. Yes, they feel so natural, that’s the key why it appeals to both men and women.

  2. Embarrased to say I don’t think I’ve seen any of her films. Very keen to see When Harry Met Sally. Will make that one a priority. RIP Norah and nice tribute Ruth!

  3. Brilliant tribute. I read somewhere that she kept her illness out of the newspapers and the sort. Which is fair enough, she didn’t need them to know.

    She gave us the modern rom-com. Modern romcoms that had some sharp dialogue and were brilliantly smart. Don’t have many of those anymore.

    I really must watch Sleepless in Seattle again!

    1. I’d have done the same thing if I were sick too. It’s such a personal thing I’d only want my family and close friends to know.

      Yes, her rom-coms actually have that timeless quality about them because they’re so well-written. You’ve Got Mail’s technology may be dated but the story is still relatable as they’re about human relationships. Yeah, I’ll be watching ‘Sleepless’ again this weekend too, such a heartwarming movie.

    1. Thanks Nov. Yes, wit and intelligence seem to be missing from today’s rom-coms. We need another filmmaker/writer like her in Hollywood!

  4. mary

    Lovely tribute to one of my personal heroes Ruth.They don’t make rom-coms like that any more (think of anything Jennifer Aniston has ever been in – ew) and they sure don’t make writers like Nora. I am surprised at how sad the news of her passing made me.

    1. Thank you Mary. Ha..ha.. yeah, glad Ephron never hired Aniston for her movies, I was thinking the same thing yesterday. I was quite emotional when I wrote this last night, I know she’ll be missed. Thanks for reading.

        1. Ah yeah, I heard that but that’s like an exception w/ her. Generally speaking Aniston just can’t act or just doesn’t challenge herself enough.

  5. Gorgeous post! I loved her romantic comedies so much – in fact I watch You’ve Got Mail every Christmas – it’s such a sweet, charming movie and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are adorable in it and have great chemistry together.

    1. Thanks Sati. Oh that’s an awesome Christmas tradition! I LOVE how beautiful NYC looks in her films, it was Autumn in When Harry Met Sally and Winter/Christmas time in You’ve Got Mail, it’s very atmospheric.

  6. PrairieGirl

    I never really knew those great rom coms all came from someone named Nora Ephron. Like the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone… I will be missing her now. A very nice remembrance, Ruth.

    1. Yeah, that’s amazing isn’t it? I can’t remember a time when a rom-com script was nominated for an Oscar, I guess it ended w/ Ephron 😦 Thanks Becky, it came from the heart.

  7. impsndcnma

    I did a little eulogy in my Wednesday links yesterday, but I was looking forward to see if you’d do one. My favorite film that she was involved in was When Harry Met Sally. I could watch that film countless times.

    1. It took me some time to do it as I was quite emotional when I first heard of her passing. Her movies have such great replayability factor as they’re just so witty. Thanks Max!

  8. asrap virtuoso

    I love When Harry Met Sally and enjoy You’ve Got Mail and Julie & Julia. Not a fan of Sleepless In Seattle but that scene you featured about “An Affair To Remember vs Dirty Dozen” is one of my favourite cinematic scenes. Must have re-winded it a million times and laughed without fail. Rita Wilson’s expression is just great at describing the film while the guys was hilarious!! Perfect ending to the scene: “Oh God, I love that movie”

    1. Hi Asrap, glad you enjoyed some of Ephron films. Yeah, that scene in ‘Sleepless’ is just so awesome, I think that appeals to both men and women as they are so relatable yet hilarious. I always like Victor Gerber, he’s just brilliant here even in his brief scenes.

  9. When Harry met Sally. I love that film and would love to revisit it; it’s been a while. This actually is a good reason to do it. The fake-orgasm scene was fun, but I’ve seen it too many times I think. It’s been fondled to death. Still there’s more to that movie. Especially I remember loving the ending, fire-works, resolution and all…

    You’ve got mail I remember as a little slight, but again: I’ve got a soft spot for Tom Hanks and I’m a book nerd, so yeah. It’s in my book of rom-coms I like.

    1. Hi Jessica! Oh yeah, there’s more to When Harry Met Sally than just that fake orgasm scene. I actually like the dialog between the characters and the subtle things between Harry & Sally, such as when they’re having double dates and they’d rather talk to each other than their dates, etc.

      You’ve Got Mail is perhaps not as good as the others but I love it for whatever reason, it’s got its charm. Glad you enjoyed that too!

    1. Yes indeed, T, I wish there were more female writers/filmmakers in Hollywood. Hopefully her passing would inspire more, and they’d have more opportunity for work.

  10. S

    Nice tribute Ruth. There’s no doubt in the rom-com category Ephron was gold esp with Sleepless, Mail, Harry met Sally; other movies of hers I enjoy include Julie & Julia you mentioned and Bewitched with Will Ferrell. That marvelous Sleepless scene comparing Grant and Marvin from their respective movies that makes you weep is truly hilarious and is almost a wink to the audience that Nora’s aware her movies are sentimental; very clever. 🙂

    1. Hi there, welcome to FC. Thanks for reading and commenting. I haven’t seen Bewitched but I’m curious now, would have to give that a look. I love that Nora pokes fun at the sentimental side of her own movies, but she does it with such wit. Yes, clever indeed.

  11. Lovely tribute Ruth. Nora Ephron was such a multi-dimensional women with so many talents. It’s very sad that she had to go so early but she most definitely left her mark on this world. Of her movies, Sleepless in Seattle and Julie & Julia are my favorite of hers.

    1. Thanks Castor! Glad you appreciate Ephron’s talent and love her movies. I first read about her passing on your blog, so that’s great that you made a tribute for her as well.

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