Film and TV

Remembering the Films of the Late Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron succumbed to the leukemia she had been fighting since 2006 on Tuesday evening. She was 71. Much has been said about the screenwriter, director, producer, essayist and author these past two days since her passing. Almost immediately, film fans and devotees alike began reeling off their praises. Her canon of film work, though small, managed to snag everyone at one point or another.

Most people don't know that she wrote Silkwood, that great Oscar-nominated drama starring Meryl Streep. We all remember that harrowing shower scene, though. Most of our first experiences with Ephron came in the form of either When Harry Met Sally... -- which she penned -- or Sleepless In Seattle, which she wrote and directed. She reteamed with stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan for 1998's You've Got Mail.

They would come to be known as chick flicks that even guys could snuggle up with, given the right circumstances. Each of them had plenty of heart, even though there was a fine sheen of corn syrup on top of them.

My favorite Ephron creation is My Blue Heaven, a heavily underrated mobster farce starring Steve Martin, Rick Moranis and Joan Cusack. You can also spy a young Jesse Bradford in there too as one of Cusack's kids. Martin disappears into his role as hood-in-hiding Vincent "Vinnie" Antonelli, and Moranis plays the perfect straight man to his mania. Also, I miss Moranis more than most people.

Nineteen eighty-six's Heartburn was based on her marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein, with Streep and Jack Nicholson out front. You probably never saw Mixed Nuts, a 1994 holiday film about a suicide hotline, but it's worth seeking out, if only for its superb cast, even though it was a box-office bomb.

There was also Michael, with John Travolta as a singing, dancing, eating angel straight from Heaven, which seems creepy now in retrospect. She was responsible for that 2005 big-screen version of Bewitched, too, but we should probably blame Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman for that one's failure. Hanging Up (2000) was the last film role of legendary Walter Matthau, and was based on a book written by her sister Delia Ephron. They collaborated on the script and star Diane Keaton handled directing duties.

A partial case could be made that her last film, 2009's Julie & Julia, helped spark the foodie craze, with Streep inhabiting celebrity Julia Child.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty