Ephron, Delia 1944- (Delia Brock)

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Ephron, Delia 1944- (Delia Brock)

PERSONAL:

Born July 12, 1944, in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Henry (a writer) and Phoebe (a writer) Ephron; married Dan Brock (divorced, 1975); married Jerome Kass (a screenwriter), May 21, 1982; children: Julie, Adam (stepchildren). Education: Barnard College, B.A., 1966.

ADDRESSES:

Agent—Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Associates, 445 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. New York magazine, New York, NY, writer, 1975-78.

WRITINGS:

(With Lorraine Bodger, under name Delia Brock) The Adventurous Crocheter, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1972.

(With Lorraine Bodger, under name Delia Brock) Gladrags: Redesigning, Remaking, Refitting All Your Old Clothes, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1975.

How to Eat like a Child, and Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up (also see below), Viking (New York, NY), 1978.

(With Lorraine Bodger) Crafts for All Seasons, Universe Books (New York, NY), 1980.

Teenage Romance; or, How to Die of Embarrassment, Viking (New York, NY), 1981.

Santa and Alex, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1983.

Funny Sauce: Us, the Ex, the Ex's New Mate, the New Mate's Ex, and the Kids, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.

(With John Forster and Judith Kahan) How to Eat like a Child and Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up (musical based on book of same title), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1986.

"Do I Have to Say Hello?": Aunt Delia's Manners Quiz for Kids and Their Grownups, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.

The Girl Who Changed the World, Ticknor & Fields (New York, NY), 1993.

Hanging Up (also see below), Putnam (New York, NY), 1995.

Big City Eyes, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Elizabeth Chandler) The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: The Official Scrapbook (inspired by the screenplay based on the book by Ann Brashares), Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Frannie in Pieces, drawings by Chad W. Beckerman, Laura Geringer Books/HarperTeen (New York, NY), 2007.

SCREENPLAYS

(With sister, Nora Ephron) This Is My Life (screenplay; based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1992.

(With Nora Ephron) Mixed Nuts, TriStar, 1994.

(With Nora Ephron, Pete Dexter, and Jim Quinlan) Michael, New Line Cinema, 1996.

(With Nora Ephron) You've Got Mail, Warner Brothers, 1998.

(With Nora Ephron) Hanging Up, Columbia Tristar, 2000.

(With Elizabeth Chandler) The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (based on the book by Ann Brashares), Warner Brothers/Alloy Entertainment, 2001.

(With Nora Ephron) Desert Rose, based on Larry McMurtry's novel of the same name, 2002.

(With Nora Ephron) Bewitched, Columbia Pictures, 2005.

Contributor to magazines, including Vogue, Esquire, Glamour, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, House and Garden, Savvy, California, New York Times Magazine, and New York.

ADAPTATIONS:

How to Eat like a Child was adapted for television by the National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC) in November, 1982.

SIDELIGHTS:

Delia Ephron is a novelist and screenwriter who is best known for her collaboration with her sister, Nora Ephron, on such films as Michael, You'veGot Mail, and Hanging Up. While Nora is perhaps the more famous of the two, both sisters concede that it is Delia whose humor and ability with one-liners enlivens the scripts that the two produce together. According to London Times correspondent Martyn Palmer, the Ephron sisters "know how to exploit a winning formula" to produce "box-office gold."

Ephron calls screenwriting the "family business." Her parents, Henry and Phoebe Ephron, were collaborators whose screen credits include Carousel, There's No Business like Show Business, and Daddy Long Legs. Dinner-table conversations often included contests to see who could tell the funniest story, and the girls learned to leaven serious situations with a touch of irony as well. "Our mother was fond of telling us that ‘no matter what happens, it's all copy,’" Delia recalled in the Times. This sage advice has applied to Delia Ephron's career as both a print and a screen writer.

Before becoming known for her films, Ephron wrote several humorous nonfiction books that appeal to both young people and adults. In How to Eat like a Child, and Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up, she covers such topics as birthdays, Christmas, sibling torture, car rides, school, and pets. Her Teenage Romance; or, How to Die of Embarrassment offers wry advice for the insecure teenager on dating, hiding pimples and other social embarrassments. "Do I Have to Say Hello?": Aunt Delia's Manners Quiz for Kids and Their Grown-ups is an overview of manners for children, listing obviously inappropriate behavior choices in quiz fashion, allowing the reader to choose which answer is best. And Funny Sauce: Us, the Ex, the Ex's New Mate, the New Mate's Ex, and the Kids wrings comedy from the phenomenon of blended families, based on Ephron's own experience of helping to raise two stepchildren. In a New York Times Book Review piece on Funny Sauce, Cyra McFadden concluded: "Whether she's firing off one-liners or writing in a quieter, more thoughtful voice, Delia Ephron's book is engaging. The new extended family is indeed a ‘funny sauce.’ This brief treatise on the subject manages to be both funny and wise." A Publishers Weekly critic likewise remarked that readers "will laugh loudly, but probably wince too as they recognize their households."

In the late 1980s, Ephron began working with her sister on film projects, and she has been involved in one way or another with most of Nora Ephron's movies. By the mid-1990s the two were collaborating in earnest, living as neighbors in a Manhattan apartment complex and creating scripts in Nora's home office. Delia told the Times: "We just seem to function well as a team and I guess that's because we are coming from the same place, we share the same history. I always think that it's both of us that ends up in [the script]."

Two of Ephron's most successful movies are Michael and You've Got Mail, both of which were cowritten and directed by Nora Ephron. In Michael, an overweight archangel on his last trip to Earth seems bent upon indulging himself in debauchery while still serving up a miracle or two. You've Got Mail, which pairs popular stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, is a remake of a classic movie in which business rivals unwittingly fall in love by exchanging anonymous letters. In the case of You've Got Mail, the notes are exchanged via e-mail between the owner of a small neighborhood book store (Ryan) and the super-store entrepreneur who runs her business into the ground (Hanks). A People reviewer found You've Got Mail "irresistibly appealing … a pitch-perfect, old-fashioned romantic comedy." Both Michael and You've Got Mail were major box-office hits in the late 1990s.

Most authors move from fiction to screenwriting, but Ephron has done the reverse. Having honed her ability to create characters and plots in movies, she has turned to novel-writing with some success. Her first adult novel, Hanging Up, applies her humor to a more serious topic, a middle-aged woman's relationship with her dying father. Eve Mozell, the heroine of the story, finds her already challenging life complicated still more when her difficult father begins "dwindling." Eve cannot call upon her sisters for help, and she finds herself spending more and more time talking to her father on the telephone. In the Chicago Tribune, Tananarive Due praised Ephron's "gift for the particulars and nuances of dialogue" which "keeps Hanging Up near its goal as a weighty work with a quirky sense of humor." "Among the many pleasures of Hanging Up is the way grave and ludicrous events ricochet off one another, scattering sentiment and anger and hilarity in all directions," wrote Eric Kraft in the New York Times Book Review. The critic added that the novel "is honest and deeply felt, and Ms. Ephron's comic timing is flawless. Eve is a likable, even admirable character, perplexed by life but equal to it." Ephron also wrote the screenplay for the film version of Hanging Up.

Big City Eyes offers a humorous take on the family dynamic of a single parent raising an adolescent child. Journalist Lily Davis buys a house in a small Long Island town in order to remove her son from dangerous influences in Manhattan. At first the neurotic Lily finds her new surroundings comforting, but life intrudes—her son's new girlfriend speaks only in Klingon (a Star Trek language), she becomes attracted to a married man, and perhaps she has also witnessed a murder. "As a narrator, Lily is good company, and Ephron's always readable prose moves nicely between observant, wisecracking humor and an atmospheric creepiness," declared Maria Russo in the New York Times Book Review. In Booklist, Danise Hoover called Big City Eyes an "entertaining, if slightly silly, novel that reads like a movie concept," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed the tale "good, clean, lighthearted fun with a moral ending." Nora and Delia Ephron planned, not surprisingly, to adapt the novel for film.

In 2001, Ephron teamed with Elizabeth Chandler to write the screenplay for the film version of a novel by Ann Brashares, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a young adult book and the first in a series. In addition, the screenwriting team produced the tie-in book, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: The Official Scrapbook, which served to link the film and the original book by providing readers with a variety of media tidbits in an official look behind the scenes of the production, such as photos of the actresses playing the main roles and stories about the cast and the crew regarding both their careers and their experiences on the set.

Ephron's next novel, Frannie in Pieces, is also geared toward younger readers. The book features the title character Frannie, a fifteen year old girl whose father, an artist, has died quite suddenly, leaving her at odds with her own emotions and unable to cope with her pain as she begins to obsess about death and dying. Then one day, looking through the things he has left behind in his art studio, Frannie discovers a mysterious carved box that has her name on it. She decides that it must have been something her father intended to give her as a gift, but he never had the chance to actually do so before he died. However, when she opens the box, instead of finding a birthday present, she discovers a puzzle of one thousand pieces, clearly made by hand. Although unexpected, it serves as a distraction, as while Frannie is focused on fitting together the numerous pieces, her thoughts drift less to her unhappiness regarding her father's death and her own curiosity about what death means. However, there is still something strange and disconcerting about the box and the puzzle. On a few occasions Frannie feels as if the pieces of the puzzle have somehow transported her to another place, one inside of them, and there she has also sometimes seen her father, though in a much younger form, even speaking with him once or twice. Ultimately, Frannie must deal with the mourning process, something that has left her torn into pieces herself. She cannot talk to her mother or stepfather about her feelings or her strange experiences, as that is the type of relationship that she, also an artist, used to have with her real father. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly opined that "with this imaginative and insightful first YA novel, Ephron … should easily capture a new audience." Ilene Cooper, writing for Booklist, remarked that "readers will want to embrace Frannie in her confusion and grief." Writing for Kliatt, Myrna Marler commented that "the characterizations are sly, and the messiness of human relationships, the process of grief, and the theme of changing perspectives are all examined."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2000, Danise Hoover, review of Big City Eyes, p. 1050; November 1, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Frannie in Pieces, p. 40.

Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1995, Tananarive Due, review of Hanging Up, p. 3.

Houston Chronicle, December 31, 1998, Barry Koltnow, "Along with ‘Mail,’ Film's Writers Got Ryan, Hanks," p. 3.

Kirkus Reviews, July, 2000, review of Big City Eyes, p. 321.

Kliatt, September 1, 2007, Myrna Marler, review of Frannie in Pieces, p. 11.

New York Times Book Review, October 12, 1986, Cyra McFadden, "Sharper than Lots of Serpents' Teeth," p. 13; July 23, 1995, Eric Kraft, "Daddy Dearest," p. 8; May 21, 2000, Maria Russo, review of Big City Eyes.

People, December 21, 1998, review of You've Got Mail, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, September 12, 1986, review of Funny Sauce: Us, the Ex, the Ex's New Mate, the New Mate's Ex, and the Kids, p. 75; March 6, 2000, review of Big City Eyes, p. 79; September 24, 2007, review of Frannie in Pieces, p. 73.

Time, February 28, 2000, Richard Schickel, review of Hanging Up (film), p. 94.

Times (London, England), February 13, 1999, Martyn Palmer, "Dream Team," p. 42.

Variety, December 14, 1998, Lael Loewenstein, review of You've Got Mail, p. 130.