Reading over appreciations of writer and director Nora Ephron, who died Tuesday after a battle with Leukemia, a theme quickly emerged: whether penned by an actual friend or not, that is what she was regarded as. Through her movies, which is what I knew best, and writing, people got a sense of a woman who understood them, shared their victories and disappointments and knew the poignant and absurd often kept close company.
For my money, her triumph was 1989’s When Harry Met Sally, a love letter to love and to New York City that in some ways almost out Woody Allened Woody Allen. Seeing it as a single college student, it was striking how Ephron simultaneously presented this beautifully crazy romance/friendship between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan but also celebrated romances that had lasted decades. You saw both the couple maybe you knew or would like to be and the ones you hoped to become. Through movies like Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) we saw these relationships that were not idealized but still seemed fantastic.
We felt like we knew her characters, therefore we felt like we knew her.
Of course, she shared more of herself in her books, her 2011 memoir I Remember Nothing having just shot to the top of my must-read list. Hearing people quote it over the last 12 hours indicates an empathetic voice that is even clearer than in her screenplays.
Maybe the most striking thing is that for such a seemingly regular gal, Ephron was a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, those hit movies just scratching the surface of what she created.
On Morning Joe today, publisher Arianna Huffington recalled how a month ago Ephron gathered friends together to celebrate the burgeoning singing career of actress and friend Rita Wilson. In her description, it almost sounded like a bit of an unannounced final gathering of friends, with the ringleader not drawing attention to herself.
Maybe that was the key to an extraordinary life that so resonated with us ordinary folk. Maybe that’s why this morning, we feel like we lost a friend.