Ephron, Nora 1941-
Ephron, Nora 1941-
Born May 19, 1941, in New York, NY; daughter of Henry (a writer) and Phoebe (a writer) Ephron; married Dan Greenburg (a writer), April 9, 1967 (divorced); married Carl Bernstein (a journalist), April 14, 1976 (divorced, 1980); married Nicholas Pileggi (a writer), 1987; children: (second marriage) Jacob, Max. Education: Wellesley College, B.A., 1962.
Agent—Lynn Nesbit, International Creative Management, 40 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
Writer, screenwriter, movie director, movie producer. New York Post, New York, NY, reporter, 1963-68; freelance journalist, 1968-72; Esquire magazine, New York, NY, columnist and contributing editor, 1972-73; New York magazine, New York, NY, contributing editor, 1973-74; Esquire, senior editor and columnist, 1974-76. Director of films, including Lucky Numbers, 2000; also appeared as actor in the films Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989, and Husbands and Wives, 1992.
Penney-Missouri award from University of Missouri Journalism School and J.C. Penney & Co., 1973; D.H.L. from Briarcliff College, 1974; with Alice Arlen, nomination for best original screenplay, American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1984, for Silkwood; nomination for best original screenplay, American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1989, for When Harry Met Sally …; Ian McLellan Hunter Award, Writers Guild of America East, 2003, for lifetime achievement in writing.
Wallflower at the Orgy (collection of articles), Viking (New York, NY), 1970.
Crazy Salad: Some Things about Women (collection of articles), Knopf (New York, NY), 1975, reprinted, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2000.
Scribble, Scribble: Notes on the Media (collection of columns), Knopf (New York, NY), 1979.
Heartburn (novel; also see below), Knopf (New York, NY), 1983.
Nora Ephron Collected, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Imaginary Friends (play), produced on Broadway at the Barrymore Theater, 2002.
I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
Perfect Gentleman (television movie), CBS-TV, 1978.
(With Alice Arlen) Silkwood, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1983.
Heartburn (adapted from her novel), Paramount Pictures, 1986.
When Harry Met Sally …, Castle Rock Entertainment, 1989.
(With Alice Arlen) Cookie, Warner Brothers, 1989.
My Blue Heaven, Warner Brothers, 1990.
(With sister, Delia Ephron; also director) This Is My Life (based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1992.
(With David S. Ward and Jeff Arch; also director) Sleepless in Seattle, Tri-Star Pictures, 1993.
(With Pete Dexter, Jim Quinlan; also director and co-producer) Michael, New Line Cinema, 1996.
(With Delia Ephron; also director and co-producer with Lauren Shuler-Donner) You've Got Mail, Warner Brothers, 1998.
(With Delia Ephron; also director) Desert Rose (based on Larry McMurtry's novel of the same title), Columbia Pictures, 2002.
(With Delia Ephron; also director) Bewitched, Columbia Pictures, 2005.
Also coauthor of the screenplays Modern Bride and Maggie, both with Alice Arlen, and Mixed Nuts, with Delia Ephron, also director, produced in 1994. Author of screenplay for Hanging Up, 2000. Also wrote for television series Adam's Rib, 1973.Contributor of short stories, essays, and reviews to periodicals, including O, The Oprah Magazine.
Nora Ephron is no stranger to public scrutiny. In the early 1960s, her parents, writers Henry and Phoebe Ephron, based their successful play, Take Her, She's Mine, on their eldest daughter's letters home from Wellesley College. Later, Nora Ephron gained a reputation as an acerbic, often autobiographical reporter and columnist, regularly writing for such publications as New York magazine and Esquire. Finally, Ephron chronicled her much-publicized breakup with second husband Carl Bernstein in her novel Heartburn, which she later adapted for the screen.
Heartburn tells the story of Rachel Samstat, a well-known cookbook author, who discovers while she is seven months pregnant with their second child that her political columnist husband is having an affair with an elegant socialite. The plot, which mirrors the circumstances of Ephron's own divorce, has been criticized for its obviously autobiographical origins. "How could [Ephron] publish a roman so shamelessly a clef, exposing the warts, peccadilloes and worse of family, ex-husbands and friends?" wrote Art Seidenbaum in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "How awfully lucky for those who treat them badly … that when journalists get mad they reach for a typewriter instead of a gun," observed Grace Glueck in the New York Times Book Review.
Ephron defended her right to use material from her own life as inspiration for a novel. "I've always written about my life," Ephron explained to Stephanie Mansfield in a Washington Post interview coinciding with the release of Heartburn. "That's how I grew up. ‘Take notes. Everything is copy.’ All that stuff my mother said to us. I think it would have been impossible for me to go through the end of my marriage and not written about it, because although it was the most awful thing I've ever been through … it was by far the most interesting."
Other critics found the novel and its screenplay adaptation witty and realistic. "Long after the chatter has abated," observed Time magazine reviewer Stefan Kanfer, "Heartburn will be providing insights and laughter." Kanfer continued: "[As] Nora Ephron is about to learn, leaving well is the best revenge."
Ephron's next screenplay, Silkwood, tells the story of activist Karen Silkwood, a worker in a plutonium fuel rod plant who uncovers evidence of slipshod manufacturing procedures but dies shortly thereafter in a car accident that many speculated was more than accidental. Based on a true story, the film won a nomination for best original screenplay from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Some critics found the film's interpretation of the circumstances surrounding Silkwood's death disturbing. "The film cannot supply the truth because no one really knows the truth," states Sheila Benson in the Los Angeles Times.
Ephron's 1989 comedy When Harry Met Sally … was a success with critics and fans alike. Following the twelve-year friendship and eventual courtship of a modern New York couple, the film blends witty one-liners with startlingly accurate observations about the dating scene. Ephron made her directorial debut in 1992 with This Is My Life, a comedy which she wrote with her sister, Delia. New York Times contributor Janet Maslin found the screenplay witty, full of "small, wry touches," and a "distinctive comic style." Ephron's directing, she added, produces a single vision of New York Life that "even at its most generous and funny manages to retain a penetrating clarity." Ephron attributes the film's accurate portrayal of family relationships, particularly sisters' bonds, to her collaboration with her own sister.
Ephron, who has seen many of the scripts she has written (or co-written) produced, acknowledges the collaborative nature of script-writing in general. "When a movie comedy works, it starts with a script, then you get a director who adds, and an actor who adds, and it gets funnier and funnier," she told Allessandra Stanley of the New York Times.
In her film Sleepless in Seattle, Ephron and cowriters David S. Ward and Jeff Arch present a story about an engaged woman in Baltimore who hears on a call-in radio talk show the young son of a widowed husband living in Seattle talking about his father's difficulties. The more she hears, the more she becomes enamored with the boy's father until they eventually meet, leading to a romance. Meredith Berkman, writing in Entertainment Weekly commented: "Sleepless is just the kind of happily-ever-after tale that delightfully skews our perspective on real-life love." New Statesman & Society contributor Jonathan Romney wrote: "The film's sob quotient depends on the knowing ingenuity with which Ephron-—who here directs as well as co-writes-—rings her ironic changes on our expectations. She's not afraid to ladle on knowingly shloky gestures."
Ephron turns to the stage for the first time as the author of the play Imaginary Friends, which focuses on the famous, real-life feud between writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. The play examines the women's careers and their youths, as well as the famous defamation law suit brought by Hellman against McCarthy when McCarthy appeared on a television talk show and said of Hellman: "Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the,’" as noted by Lisa D. Horowitz in Daily Variety. In her review of the play, Horowitz noted: "Ephron makes it clear she thinks these are writers worth reading, and worth writing about. With the inclusion of various timely issues—literary feuds, freedom of speech, political pariahs—she makes them pertinent to contemporary … [audiences] as well." Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck commented that Ephron has "turned it into a series of vaudevillian sketches, complete with song-and-dance numbers." Noting "the playful and bitchy imagination of Nora Eph- ron," Nation contributor David Kaufman also wrote that "even if the comic-book tone seems, at first, to trivialize Hellman and McCarthy, it ultimately brings them down to a human scale, where their foibles are writ large, enabling us to see that on one level their war really stemmed from the clash of two outsized personalities vying for public attention."
In her 2005 movie Bewitched, Ephron, who also directed the film, based the screenplay (written with Delia Ephron) on the 1960' television series of the same name. In the film, Isabel, who is really a witch, falls for an egotistical, hard-luck actor named Jack, who is making an updated sitcom titled Bewitched. When Isabel lands a part on the series, she becomes more popular than Jack, leading at first to jealously but eventually love. Brian Lowry, writing in Variety, noted that "finding a fresh way to tackle such material is admirable." In a review in the New Yorker, Anthony Lane wrote: "The result is clever, and the narrative twistings keep you on your toes." In his review of the film in Newsweek, David Ansen wrote: "This pop-Pirandellian concept, written by Ephron with her sister Delia, yields some healthy laughs."
Ephron ponders growing older in her book I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. The essays focus primarily on how Ephron is coping with growing older while exploring topics such as plastic surgery and shopping for clothes to hide an aging body. A reviewer writing in California Bookwatch, referred to I Feel Bad about My Neck as a "blend of autobiography and reflection." A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the book as "a disparate assortment of sharp and funny pieces revealing the private anguishes, quirks and passions of a woman on the brink of senior citizenhood." Toni Bentley, writing in Publishers Weekly, commented that Ephron provides "an intelligent, alert, entertaining perspective that does not take itself too seriously."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors in the News, Volume 2, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1976.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 17, 1981, Volume 31, 1985.
Ephron, Nora, Scribble, Scribble, Knopf (New York, NY), 1979.
Ephron, Nora, Heartburn, Knopf (New York, NY), 1983.
Ephron, Nora, I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
Newsmakers, 1992 Cumulation, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
America's Intelligence Wire, August 4, 2006, "Juggling Act; Interview with Author Nora Ephron."
Back Stage West, October 10, 2002, Gi-Gi Downs, review of Imaginary Friends, p. 12.
Baltimore Sun, September 17, 2006, Susan Reimer, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck.
California Bookwatch, October, 2006, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck.
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), September 27, 2006, Lynn Carey, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck.
Daily Variety, October 2, 2002, Lisa D. Horowitz, review of Imaginary Friends, p. 11; December 13, 2002, Charles Isherwood, review of Imaginary Friends, p. 6; January 30, 2003, Robert Hofler, review of Imaginary Friends, p. 5; February 26, 2003, Dave McNary, "Writers Guild East Taps Ephron for Hunter Kudos," p. 59; June 20, 2005, Brian Lowry, review of Bewitched, p. 28.
Dallas Morning News, August 30, 2006, Jerome Weeks, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck.
Entertainment Weekly, February 28, 1992, Owen Gleiberman, review of This Is My Life, p. 4; July 31, 1992, Jill Rachlin, review of This Is My Life, p. 66; December 10, 1993, Meredith Berkman, review of Sleepless in Seattle, p. 80; October 28, 2005, Timothy Gunatilaka, review of Bewitched, p. 67.
Fast Company, May, 2003, Anne Kreamer, "Women as Heroines of Their Own Lives," interview with author, p. 73.
Hollywood Reporter, December 13, 2002, Frank Scheck, review of Imaginary Friends, p. 16; February 25, 2003, Zorianna Kit, review of Bewitched, p. 1.
Interview, July, 2005, Sarah Cristobal, review of Bewitched, p. 30.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck, p. 504.
Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1983, Sheila Benson, review of Silkwood.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 17, 1983, Art Seidenbaum, review of Heartburn, p. 2.
Nation, January 27, 2003, David Kaufman, review of Imaginary Friends, p. 32.
New Statesman & Society, September 24, 1993, Jonathan Romney, review of Sleepless in Seattle, p. 50.
Newsweek, June 27, 2005, David Ansen, review of Bewitched, p. 63; July 31, 2006, Nicki Gostin, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck, p. 55.
New Yorker, June 27, 2005, Anthony Lane, review of Bewitched, p. 105.
New York Times, January 24, 1991, Allessandra Stanley, "When Nora Met Wendy: The Subject Was Comedy," p. B4; February 21, 1992, Janet Maslin, review of This Is My Life, p. C8; December 13, 1998, Dinitia Smith, "FILM; She's a Director With an Edge: She's a Writer"; December 18, 1998, Janet Maslin, review of You've Got Mail.
New York Times Book Review, April 24, 1983, Grace Glueck, review of Heartburn.
People, March 2, 1992, Joanne Kaufman, review of This Is My Life, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, July 4, 2005, Leah Rozen, review of Bewitched, p. 29; June 5, 2006, Toni Bentley, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck, p. 46.
State (Columbia, SC), September 27, 2006, Claudia Smith Brinson, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck.
Texas Monthly, November, 2006, Sarah Bird, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck, p. 356.
Time, April 11, 1983, Stefan Kanfer, review of Heartburn (film), p. 94; July 31, 1989, Richard Corliss, review of When Harry Met Sally …, p. 65; January 27, 1992, Garry Wills, "How to Repossess a Life: Nora Ephron Takes Control by Telling Her Story Her Way," profile of author, p. 62; February 24, 1992, Richard Schickel, review of This Is My Life, p. 68; July 4, 2005, Richard Schickel, review of Bewitched, p. 80.
Variety, March 25, 2002, "‘Sweet Smell of Success’ Composer Marvin Hamlisch and Lyricist Craig Carnelia Have Written the Score for Nora Ephron's ‘Imaginary Friends,’" p. 91; October 7, 2002, Lisa D. Horowitz, review of Imaginary Friends, p. 32; June 17, 2005, Brian Lowry, review of Bewitched, p. 4.
W, December, 2002, Hilary De Vries, "Curtain Call: Writer, Director and Now Playwright Nora Ephron Enters a New Stage with Imaginary Friends," p. 194.
Washington Post, April 25, 1983, Stephanie Mansfield, "Nora Ephron's Open Sock Drawer," interview with author, p. D1.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (December 30, 2006), information on author's film work.
New York Magazine,http://nymag.com/ (December 20, 2006), Boris Kachka, review of I Feel Bad about My Neck.
NNDB,http://www.nndb.com/ (December 30, 2006), information on author's film work.
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (August 8, 2006), Rebecca Traister "What's So Damn Great about Aging," profile of author.