Unexpected and unfortunate news this morning that filmmaker and essayist Nora Ephron passed away last night of pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia. She was 71.
I was never a big fan of Ephron’s films, except perhaps “When Harry Met Sally…,” which she co-wrote and received an Oscar nomination for in 1989. But then, her films were never really meant for adolescent boys. It’s easy to see why her light humor, keen musings on the state of women’s rights in the U.S. and heartfelt streak of romanticism made her one of the most popular female writers/screenwriters around. Rom-com favorites like “When Harry Met Sally…”, “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” or her most recent film “Julie & Julia” all exude an uncynical positivism that sticks with you longer than such apparently slight projects really have any business doing. It’s not that they aren’t, to some degree, fantasies – but they do somehow feel so much less artificial than most Hollywood entries in that genre.
Besides “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” Ephron also received an Oscar nomination for co-writing “Silkwood,” the 1983 biopic (starring the also-nominated Meryl Streep) of Karen Silkwood, a metallurgy worker at a plutonium processing plant who was purposefully contaminated, psychologically tortured and possibly murdered to prevent her from exposing blatant worker safety violations at the plant. Streep has been quoted saying of Ephron: ““You could call on her for anything: doctors, restaurants, recipes, speeches, or just a few jokes, and we all did it, constantly. She was an expert in all the departments of living well.”