Nora Ephron’s birthday is today. Do you know Nora? Probably. Maybe you don’t even know that you know her. Nora is the writer and sometimes director and producer of a several movies, including When Harry Met Sally, Julie and Julia, Bewitched and my personal favorite ever of all time, You’ve Got Mail.
She was, at her core, a writer. It’s like she just couldn’t help it, it was her craft. She was a journalist, a novelist, an essayist, a screenplay writer, a playwright, and a blogger.
She was one of the few people who knew the true identity of Deep Throat since her second ex-husband (of three) was one of the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal. She was an intern in the JFK White House and worked without a desk or a typewriter. She was married three times and had two sons. She loved New York.
So far, I’ve only read her book I Feel Bad About My Neck all the way through. I’m partway through I Remember Nothing which is also very good. It kind of reminds me of Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? because she’ll be telling a story like the time her uncle died and there was some back-and-forth over the span of a day or two in which she fantasized about how much she was about to inherit and therefore didn’t need to finish the screenplay she was writing to simply pay the bills. She ended with up with about $40,000 (she was expecting $2 million) and so she decided to finish the screenplay. When Harry Met Sally ultimately grossed $92.8 million and Nora received a British Academy Film Award, an Oscar nomination and a Writer’s Guild of America Award nomination for the screenplay.
I mean…can you imagine if she had just stopped? My expectations for a coed friendship probably would have been a little tempered, but it also gave us a good idea of what Carrie Fisher looks like in 80’s street clothes and a bit of fun commentary on Casablanca. I still haven’t seen Casablanca.
She often wrote with her sister Delia and they even lived in the same building, the Apthorp, in Manhattan for awhile. This building was the size of a city block complete with its own inner courtyard. Delia would come down from her apartment, cross the courtyard and go up to Nora’s place to write.
Nora didn’t blow dry her own hair. She used to go to a salon twice a week to get a blowout. I think this is a thing you do when you live in New York City and have a lot of money. I can’t imagine asking Ty to work that into our budget. Especially when I mainly just stick my hair in a messy bun. (And another thing: Big Brother has started calling my hair ties “bunners”. As in, “Mommy, can you put my hair in a bun with one of your bunners?” So, that’s fun.)
I realized at some point before she died that I’ve been hanging out with Nora for years. There she was on the credits of so many of my favorite movies and I had just missed her.
If you haven’t read I Feel Bad About My Neck, you should. It’s so well-written. It starts off kinda light, talking about the extra skin on her neck that betrays her age. I also recommend My Life in France by Julia Child. After I saw Julie and Julia for the bazillionth time I decided to read through Julia’s memoir. Of course, I enjoyed reading about Julia and her journey to the cooking icon she is today. But I couldn’t get the image of Nora reading through the same book, sitting in the Apthorp (even though she wasn’t living there when she wrote it, it just sounds like such a romantic building) and writing the screenplay. In case you can’t tell, I really love reading. Nora felt the same way.
“Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.”
She died in 2012 from pneumonia, a complication resulting from leukemia. She left clues about her diagnosis in I Remember Nothing and I Feel Bad About My Neck but ultimately did not disclose her illness before her death.
This woman is completely fascinating to me and today is her birthday. But you know who I keep thinking about? Delia and her two other sisters, Hallie and Amy. Her sons, Jacob and Max. Her husband Nicholas who she was married to when she died. The people who loved her, ate dinner with her, cried with her…the people she belonged to. Her words, her thoughts, the images she created are all around us in ways we may not even realize. Ok, maybe that’s just me. Lines from her movies pop into my head all the time but I have to keep them to myself because there are only a handful of people who speak Ephron the way I do and none of them live in Orlando.
Wishing her happy birthday seems somewhat moot. So instead, I’ll say thank you. Thank to the Ephron family who shared this woman with us and perhaps even gave her some of the material I enjoy today.