I am celebrating International Women’s Day by reflecting on one of my favorite writers and directors, Nora Ephron. She died last year from some kind of leukemia. I never had the opportunity to meet her but would like to think we would have been great friends. I flatter myself. Truth is, I loved her. I wish I took more time to read more from her. That is something I hope to do, going forward.
I was first introduced to her screenplay writing in the late 80s via Heartburn, Silkwood and then her huge smash, When Harry Met Sally. By then I was reading her books and essays. This was a long time ago when most of this stuff about was very new to me. Before this, feminism was more or less an abstract paragraph in my education of black and white pictures mostly about women’s suffrage. Nora brought me up to date.
Nora had gone to school at Wellesley with Gloria Steinem and Hillary Rodham among many other notable women during a very prolific time for modern feminism. She had a supposed rift with Ms Steinem that apparently got blown out of proportion by her former mentor, Betty Friedan. Pretty heady stuff.
I was caught by the honesty in her writing, not to mention brilliant wit. Some of the earlier criticism of her came from that honesty. There were things about the movement that it may have seemed she didn’t fully agree with and some actions of it’s leaders that she didn’t align with. Some thought it was anti-feminist to ever break rank with the cause, no matter what. She was just writing and admitting her own feelings and often what she viewed as her own shortcomings. She wrote the truth. Hilarious and offensive to some but always the truth.
During a college summer she was an intern for JFK which she wrote, “she was probably the only intern that President John F. Kennedy had never hit on.” She went on to be a journalist for the NY Post and other papers and magazines after. Then she started putting her essay collections together and eventually books and screen plays and then into directing. But she never stopped writing. Thank god.
On reading any of her essays, it doesn’t take long to see she would not pretend to be anyone or anything but herself. Take her collection, “Wallflower at the Orgy” for instance. The title is pretty much a give away. But read it because it’s brilliant and ridiculously funny. In her movies we often credit the great lines to the actors that read them but realize those were classic Nora. Remember Billy Crystal’s bit to Meg Ryan that men and women could never be just friends in When Harry Met Sally? Or when he said, “It’s so nice when you can sit with someone and not have to talk.” Nora, a women wrote that. So many great lines from her books and movies. Too many to count. I could go on and on about her but just go out and pick up one of her books or movies or 3. She was a sought after speaker and guest blogger as well as a New York entertainment and literary icon.
Her last collection called, “I Remember Nothing” ends with a list of things she will miss and a list of things she won’t miss.
A few from things she won’t: dry skin, Clarence Thomas, the sound of a vacuum cleaner and panels of “Women in Film”.
A few things from things she will miss: my kids, Nick (her husband), taking a bath, coming over the bridge to Manhattan and pie.
Two weeks before her death from the hospital she told producer Scott Rudin, “If I could get a hairdresser in here, we could have meeting.”
If I only knew…
I love you Nora. Thank you.