June 26, 2012

NORA EPHRON (1941-2012)


Nora Ephron never won an Oscar, although she was nominated for 3 of her screenplays (for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle).  With the exception of Silkwood, she didn’t write or direct Oscar-type movies–gravitas wasn’t her thing.  Ephron, who died today at the age of 71, was a proponent of light, romantic comedies, sometimes even where her material didn’t quite fit the genre (Bewitched), and in Harry and Sleepless, she was behind 2 of the all-time classics.  (You’ve Got Mail, not such a classic, was a tremendous hit as well.)  Really, she–along with Nancy Meyers–created her own subgenre, a world of romance where comfortable, prosperous and–incredibly daring for youth-oriented Hollywood–even middle-aged women could find true love and fulfillment.  In a sense, it was rom-com for what’s now the “50 Shades of Grey” audience, although that was hardly her kind of content. Meryl Streep starred in 3 of her scripts, and Meg Ryan in 3 more (Tom Hanks and Steve Martin were her male stars of choice, with 2 each), and their kind of acting–polished, professional, smooth, impeccable–was her kind of filmmaking.

Ephron even got her own happy ending, professionally speaking.  After 2 sizable missteps with Lucky Numbers and Bewitched, Ephron had a third chance–not something Hollywood gives automatically, and certainly not to 68-year old women.  In 2009, her last film, Julie & Julia, proved to be one of the biggest hits of her career, behind only the Hanks/Ryan blockbusters, and earning an Oscar nomination for Streep.  It was a classy exit, and a suitable one.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."