Screenwriter, director and journalist;
Born: May 19, 1941; Died: June 26, 2012.
Nora Ephron, who has died aged 71 of leukaemia, was an essayist, author and filmmaker who challenged and thrived in the male-dominated worlds of movies and journalism and was loved, respected and feared for her wit.
Born into a family of screenwriters, she was a top journalist in her 20s and 30s, then a best-selling author and successful director. Ephron was among the most quotable and influential writers of her generation.
She wrote and directed such favourites as Julie and Julia and Sleepless in Seattle, and her books included the novel Heartburn, a brutal roman a clef about her marriage to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein; and the popular essay collections I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing.
She was tough on others – Bernstein's marital transgressions were immortalised by the spouse in Heartburn, a man "capable of having sex with a Venetian blind" – and relentless about herself.
She wrote openly about her difficult childhood, her failed relationships, her doubts about her physical appearance and the hated intrusion of age.
"We all look good for our age. Except for our necks," she wrote in the title piece from I Feel Bad About My Neck, published in 2006.
"Oh, the necks. There are chicken necks. There are turkey gobbler necks. There are elephant necks. There are necks with wattles and necks with creases that are on the verge of becoming wattles - According to my dermatologist, the neck starts to go at 43 and that's that."
Even within the smart-talking axis of New York-Washington-Los Angeles, no one bettered Ephron, slender and dark-haired and armed with a killer smile. Friends from Mike Nichols and Meryl Streep to Calvin Trillin and Pete Hamill adored her for her wisdom, her loyalty and turns of phrase.
As a screenwriter, Ephron was nominated three times for Academy Awards, for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, and was the rare woman to write, direct and produce Hollywood movies.
Meg Ryan was among the many actresses who said they loved working with Ephron because she understood them so much better than did her male peers.
The eldest of four children, Ephron was born in New York to screenwriters Harry and Phoebe Ephron, who moved to Beverly Hills, California, when she was four years old.
Words, words, words were the air she breathed. Regular visitors included Casablanca co-writer Julius J Epstein, Sunset Boulevard collaborator Charles Brackett, and the team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, who worked on The Thin Man and It's a Wonderful Life.
Everyone was in movies – "the business". "People who were not in the business were known as civilians," Ephron wrote in I Remember Nothing.
If the best humour is born out of sadness, then Ephron was destined for comedy.
She was 15, she recalled, when her mother became an alcoholic, finishing off a bottle of scotch a night.
Her father, too, was a heavy drinker, "sloppy, sentimental", although "somehow his alcoholism was more benign".
By the 1970s, she had met Bernstein, who teamed up with fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward on prize-winning coverage of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon.
They married in 1976, and had two children, but love soon turned to hate – and matured into art. Ephron was pregnant with their second child when she learned Bernstein was having an affair, a betrayal that had its rewards, once she stopped crying.
Ephron was married three times: to Dan Greenburg, Bernstein and, quite happily, to Nicholas Pileggi, who survives her and whose book Wiseguys was adapted into the Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas.
Sisters Delia, Amy and Hallie Ephron are also writers and Nora and Delia collaborated on the screenplay for This Is My Life.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.