June 27th, 2012
11:19 AM ET
Throughout her life, Nora Ephron was the ultimate multi-hyphenate, succeeding as a journalist, a film director and a writer of fiction, essays and plays for the stage and screen.
With those efforts, Ephron, who died at 71 on June 26, has left behind a groundbreaking legacy filled with great characters, plenty of wit, and that distinct Ephron perspective.
Her outlook was so particular that they came to form a particular category: the "Nora Ephron film." That category, writes the San Francisco Chronicle, "promised a movie containing some specific elements: At least one strong woman's role ... barbed humor ... bone-deep romanticism ... and just a hint, sometimes more than a hint, of nostalgia."
You can see those characteristics in her screenplay for 1989's "When Harry Met Sally." While the word "classic" gets tossed around a lot when referring to (somewhat) older films, in the case of this oft-quoted romantic comedy, it holds true.
"Classic" is a fitting description, writer/director Nicholas Stoller told the Huffington Post, because Billy Crystal's Harry and Meg Ryan's Sally are actually "two pretty messed-up characters. They're pretty flawed ... it goes to a dark, pretty real place between them. That's why it's a classic. Nora Ephron does not pull her punches in that movie."
She carried that same voice into her work on the page, crafting both fiction and non-fiction. Her essays in 2006's best-seller "I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman" culminated into a "wry and invaluable book about aging," the New York Times writes, pointing out the essay "On Maintenance" in particular.
Throughout her career, the Times says, Ephron "perfected a wise and winningly nit-picky persona, turning herself into every reader's confidante."
Indeed, when New Yorker writer Ariel Levy picked up Ephron's novel "Heartburn" while traveling, she found a companion in Ephron's "funny, frank, self-effacing but never self-pitying and utterly intimate" voice.
That voice was brought to the big screen with 1986's "Heartburn," the screenplay for which Ephron adapted from her novel.
"Ephron ... was an artist of consolation, on the page and in her movies," Levy writes, positing that part of the reason you can always watch "a Nora Ephron film" is because they're not only funny, but also "profoundly reassuring."
Audiences ate that up, with her directorial work - including "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993); "You've Got Mail" (1998); and "Julie & Julia" (2009), all of which she also wrote - grossing a cumulative $515 million domestically, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
But her greatest work also includes the lessons she left us, her audience, with, and those she imparted by example to women who aspired to her greatness. Commented actress and screenwriter Nia Vardalos on the evening of her passing, "Nora Ephron you helped all writer-girls know to just tell the truth."
On the eve of her death, a quote of Ephron's echoed from the mourning: "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."
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