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If you like Nora Ephron's story, you might also like:
Carol Burnett,
Francis Ford Coppola,
Joan Didion,
Louise Glück,
Ron Howard,
Thomas Keller,
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Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron
Profile of Nora Ephron Biography of Nora Ephron Interview with Nora Ephron Nora Ephron Photo Gallery

Nora Ephron Biography

Humorist, Novelist, Screenwriter and Director

Nora Ephron Date of birth: May 19, 1941
Date of death: June 26, 2012

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  Nora Ephron

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Nora Ephron was born in New York City and lived, for the first four years of her life, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a neighborhood that figures prominently in her writing. She was the first of four daughters of Henry and Phoebe Ephron, writers who moved to Los Angeles when Nora was three to work in the film industry. Although the Ephrons enjoyed success in Hollywood, young Nora did not feel at home in the Southern California of the 1950s and longed to return to New York, which she always regarded as her real home.

After graduating from Wellesley College in 1962 with a degree in journalism, she served briefly as a White House intern during the administration of John F. Kennedy. Returning to New York at last, she found work in the mailroom at Newsweek magazine and was soon promoted to researcher. When New York City's newspapers suspended publication during a strike by the International Typographical Union, Nora Ephron and some of her friends, including the young Calvin Trillin, put out their own satirical newspaper. Ephron's parodies of New York Post columnists caught the eye of the Post's publisher, Dorothy Schiff. When the strike was over, Schiff hired Ephron as a reporter. The 1960s were a lively time for journalism in New York and Dorothy Schiff's Post, a liberal-leaning afternoon tabloid, offered Ephron a free hand to explore her favorite city from top to bottom.

Nora Ephron Biography Photo
While working at the Post, Nora Ephron also began writing occasional essays for publications such as New York, Esquire and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. Her work as a reporter won acclaim as part of the "New Journalism" movement of the 1960s, in which the author's personal voice became part of the story. Her humorous 1972 essay, "A Few Words About Breasts," made her name as an essayist. As a regular columnist for Esquire, she became one of America's best-known humorists. Her essays, often focusing on sex, food, and New York City, were collected in a series of best-selling volumes, Wallflower at the Orgy, Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble.

Nora Ephron Biography Photo
An early marriage to humorist Dan Greenburg ended in divorce, and Ephron married investigative reporter Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame. After the birth of their first child, Ephron curtailed her activities as a journalist and devoted more of her time to screenwriting, scripting occasional television episodes and selling a number of screenplays that were never produced. Midway through Ephron's second pregnancy, her marriage to Carl Bernstein ended and she found herself alone with two small boys to raise. Her screenplay for the film Silkwood (1983), based on the life of an anti-nuclear activist who met a violent end, was made into a successful film by famed director Mike Nichols, starring actress Meryl Streep.

Nora Ephron Biography Photo
The same year, Ephron published a comic novel, Heartburn, clearly based on the marriage to Bernstein and its painful dissolution. A film adaptation, starring Streep and Jack Nicholson, soon appeared, directed by Mike Nichols from a script by Ephron. With two high-profile screenplays to her credit, Ephron became one of the most sought after writers in the business. Her personal life took a happy turn in 1987, when she married author and journalist Nicholas Pileggi, best known for his true-crime stories, including two that formed the basis for films by director Martin Scorsese, GoodFellas and Casino.

Nora Ephron Biography Photo
Nora Ephron enjoyed her greatest success yet with When Harry Met Sally (1989), a romantic comedy directed by Rob Reiner, starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The film struck an instant chord with audiences and became an international hit. Ephron had seen her parents' writing careers falter in their 50s, as they both fell prey to alcohol and the fickle fashions of Hollywood. Ephron contemplated a transition to directing, in part to protect her own writing career in an industry still largely inhospitable to films by or about women. Unfortunately, her directing debut, This Is My Life, about the struggles of a single mother working as a stand-up comic, was a box office disappointment. Ephron knew her future as a director would stand or fall with her next assignment.

Nora Ephron Biography Photo
Sleepless in Seattle (1993) was co-written by Nora Ephron and her younger sister, Delia. Director Nora cast Harry and Sally star Meg Ryan, teaming her with Tom Hanks. The resulting film was an enormous success, and Ephron was now established as Hollywood's foremost creator of romantic comedies. A follow-up film, Mixed Nuts, was a commercial disappointment, but Michael, starring John Travolta as an angel, enjoyed solid success at the box office. In You've Got Mail (1998), Ephron re-united Sleepless stars Hanks and Ryan in a contemporary variation on the classic comedy The Shop Around the Corner. With You've Got Mail, the team of Ephron, Ryan and Hanks scored another huge success; Ephron's film also served as a love letter to her beloved Upper West Side.

Nora Ephron Biography Photo
In the following years, Nora Ephron pursued a wide variety of projects. She made an unexpected foray into writing for the stage with her 2002 play Imaginary Friends, based on the turbulent rivalry of authors Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. She took another unusual tack with an offbeat big-screen adaptation of the 1960s television series Bewitched, starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. Her 2006 collection of essays, I Feel Bad Abut My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman, immediately shot to number one on the New York Times best-seller list.

In her film Julie and Julia, she returned to a favorite subject -- food -- by telling the parallel stories of famed food writer Julia Child and of a contemporary Manhattan woman who sets out to cook her way through every recipe in Childs's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The 2009 film starred Ephron's friend and previous collaborator, Meryl Streep, as Julia Child. In addition to her books, plays and movies, Ephron wrote a regular blog for the online news site The Huffington Post. Her 2010 collection of essays, I Remember Nothing, took a humorous look at the aging process and other topics.

Nora Ephron was one of a handful of successful women film directors working in Hollywood, and one whose films consistently featured women in strong, decisive roles. She lived to see all three of her younger sisters -- Delia, Amy and Hallie -- build successful writing careers. Nora Ephron died in Manhattan, from complications of leukemia, at the age of 71.

This page last revised on Nov 11, 2013 20:16 EDT
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