Nora Ephron died yesterday at the age of 71 after battling acute myeloid leukemia, and I am sad.
Just last night at dinner, one of my boys made a geography mistake, and my husband Brian — following standard house procedure — quoted the requisite movie line, “I’m not even gonna think about what they’re not teaching you in that school.” Ephron wrote those words, which Tom Hanks says in “Sleepless in Seattle” when his son is unaware of how far Baltimore and Seattle are from each other. That's not the only line from an Ephron movie in my family’s repertoire. There are at least a dozen.
So many of my favorite movies, the movies that are by my bedside to put in the DVD player when I’m feeling sick, were written by Ephron. “When Harry Met Sally,” Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail” and “Hanging Up” are movies I’ve watched over and over, stealing many of Ephron’s witty words and using them over the years. I could text my best friend Susan that I think I have a “twenty-four hour tumor; they’re going around,” and she’d automatically know I was in a blue mood — thanks to “When Harry Met Sally.”
Ephron is best known for her screenwriting and directing, but if you know anything about her personal life, you’ll also know she loved to cook. In her book “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” she wrote that at different times in her life she was devoted to various cookbooks. Those cookbooks influenced her style and choices. At one point, she was devoted to Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Fittingly, the last movie Ephron wrote and directed was “Julie & Julia,” a film that interwove Julia Child’s years of writing “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” with Julie Powell’s story of cooking and blogging her way through every recipe in the cookbook.
That movie piqued my interest in Julia Child, and I’ve since cooked from her books, visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s exhibit that contains Child’s personal kitchen, and read several books about Child.
Nora Ephron’s writing has brought me much joy, entertainment and inspiration through the years. I’m sure there’s not a week that goes by when I don’t quote a line from one of her movies. When Elizabeth Taylor died two years ago, I chose to make Nora Ephron’s version of Chasen’s Chili — one of Taylor’s favorite foods — to pay honor to the movie star. I think tonight, I’ll crawl under the covers and watch “When Harry Met Sally,” my absolute favorite Ephron movie, as a way to honor and say thank you to Nora Ephron. I'll moan along with Billy Crystal when he has his twenty-four hour tumor.
What is your favorite Ephron movie?