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'Queen of the Rom-com', writer Nora Ephron, dies at 71

The Hollywood screenwriter of ‘When Harry met Sally’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ passes away from pneumonia.

Author and director Nora Ephron (1941-2012) pictured at her home in 2010.
Author and director Nora Ephron (1941-2012) pictured at her home in 2010.
Image: Charles Sykes/AP

THE OSCAR-NOMINATED Hollywood screenwriter Nora Ephron – who penned such romantic comedies as ‘When Harry met Sally’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ has died. She was 71.

A noted American journalist, essayist, writer as well as producer and director, Ephron wrote and directed her last film ‘Julia and Julia’ in 2009 in which she worked once more alongside her good friend Meryl Streep.

Her son Jacob Bernstein told the New York Times that his mother had died of pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “The loss of Nora Ephron is a devastating one for New York City’s arts and cultural community.

From her earliest days at New York City’s newspapers to her biggest Hollywood successes, Nora always loved a good New York story, and she could tell them like no-one else.

Bloomberg hailed Ephron’s works as “classics that will be enjoyed for generations.”

Ephron was born in the Big Apple on May 19, 1941, the daughter of a Broadway playwright and Hollywood screenwriter, who told her to “take notes. Everything is copy.”

Queen of the romcom

She was eventually to become the queen of Hollywood romantic comedies, but her writing career began in journalism. In her early years she wrote for Esquire and New York Magazine, the New York Post and the New York Times.

But she graduated onto writing novels and then parlayed them into successful film scripts, many drawn from her own experiences.

In her first screenplay in 1983 – ‘Silkwood’, starring Streep – Ephron tapped into the era’s Cold War fear of nuclear energy. Her novel ‘Heartburn’was based on her marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, and became a movie in 1986.

But it was for her romantic comedies that she was to become best known, and in particular the 1989 ‘When Harry met Sally’ starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, for which she won an Oscar nomination, and 1993’s ‘Sleepless in Seattle’.

Her other Oscar nominations were for ‘You’ve Got Mail’ in 1998 also starring Ryan once again teamed with Tom Hanks.

Ephron was a committed feminist, and wrote often about women’s rights in her collections of essays – having once said that she had modelled herself on the noted American critic and wit, Dorothy Parker.

Ephron was married three times. Her first marriage to author Dan Greenburg ended in divorce. She then married Bernstein, with whom she had two sons. But the marriage fell apart very publicly when he began an affair with the wife of the then British ambassador, the Washington Post said.

Ephron told the Post she felt compelled to write about her marriage to Bernstein saying “although it was the most awful thing I’ve ever been through it was by far the most interesting.” She married a third time to screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi.

- © AFP, 2012

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