This came as a real shock to me: Nora Ephron, reporter and writer of engaging books and screenplays, died today at only 71. The cause was myodysplasia, the same disease that killed Carl Sagan at 62. She got three Oscar nominations for screenplays: “Silkwood,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and “You’ve Got Mail.” She also wrote the screenplay for “Sleepless in Seattle,” several books of essays, and the novel Heartburn, a lightly fictionalized account of her dysfunctional marriage to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein.
I’ve seen all of the movies mentioned above, and read Heartburn and two of her essay collections. Of these, I’d nominate the screenplays for “Silkwood” and “When Harry Met Sally” as her finest accomplishments. Some found her romantic comedies schlocky, and yes, they have happy, tear-jerky endings, but the dialogue in “When Harry Met Sally” (the full movie is available on YouTube) is superb, and reminds me of my dolorous self when I dated happy, sunny shiksas in college. And who could forget this scene with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, filmed in Katz’s Delicatessen in New York? The last line is sheer genius.