The eldest of four daughters born to Phoebe and Henry Ephron, who both were playwrights and screenwriters born in the U.S., Nora Ephron in high school wanted to grow up to be another Dorothy Parker. Soon she augmented that dream to include journalism, and majored at Wellesley College (Massachusetts) in Political Science. In 1961 she got a job as an intern in Kennedy’s White House. Her next job was in the mail room of Newsweek, as they told her they didn’t hire women as writers. Failing to change that, she participated in a class action lawsuit for discrimination. Years later she wrote a satire besmirching the New York Post, which then hired her as a reporter. She would go on to write for Esquire, known widely for an essay about women’s body image.
Ms. Ephron would continue adeptly lampooning institutions of all sorts, including her alma mater, and feminists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, and the owner of her former employer the Post. By the end of the 1960s she was making waves everywhere. And then she herself diversified.
In 1975, she published an essay, Crazy Salad, about the generation which helped shape the world at the time. (It appeared later in an eponymous book in 2000.) She went on to write many books showing a humorous and satirical mirror on life, Wallflower at the Orgy and Scribble Scribble among them.
Meanwhile, in 1976, married then to Carl Bernstein (father of her children, who with Bob Woodward investigated and reported on Watergate), Ms. Ephron got involved in filmwriting when she and her husband rewrote the script for All the President’s Men. Their rewrite wasn’t used, but the connection had been made and she would go on to write Silkwood with Alice Arlen, which Mike Nichols would direct. He later would say of her, as reported in The New York Times, “Nora was so funny and so interesting that you didn’t notice that she was also necessary.”
She also scripted When Harry Met Sally... (1986) and You’ve Got Mail (1998), which she wrote with her sister Delia. Most of her family was in the writing business. Her sister Amy also became a screenwriter, and Hallie is a journalist, book reviewer, and crime fiction novelist. Nora was the subject of a film before she wrote them - her parents based the lead character in Take Her, She’s Mine on Nora at age 22.
Ms. Ephron began also directing films with This Is My Life (1992), written with Delia. And she never stopped writing for publication, including books I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Reflections on Being a Woman (2006) and I Remember Nothing (2010). She and Delia wrote a play, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, and Nora herself wrote the play Imaginary Friends (2002) about Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. Nora’s last film, which she wrote, directed, and produced, was Julie & Julia (2009). And she won numerous awards.
Nora Ephron passed away on June 26, 2012, from pneumonia instigated by the leukemia she had been suffering silently since 2006. In addition to her body of work, she leaves behind the Nora Ephron Prize, a monetary award given each year through the Tribeca Film Festival for a female writer or filmmaker “with a distinctive voice.”