LOS ANGELES — Before Nancy Meyers, before Sofia Coppola, before Julie Delpy and Kasi Lemmons and Nicole Holofcener, there was Nora Ephron.
She was a rare woman writing and directing in what was (and still is) the male-dominated industry of filmmaking. Ephron staked out her spot on the cinematic landscape with a distinctive voice and formidable wit. Now, she leaves behind a legacy of classic moments and quotable lines after succumbing to leukemia Tuesday at age 71.
The very mention of her name calls to mind a certain kind of movie, something you can't say about many filmmakers, regardless of their gender. They were romantic comedies, yes, but ones for smart women, about smart women, with characters who had both bite and vulnerability to them. Maybe they were a tad too hyper-analytical or neurotic, but they were always highly verbal and, more often than not, destined for the kind of happy ending they deserved.
Meg Ryan forged and reinforced her status as America's Sweetheart with roles in movies Ephron either wrote or wrote and directed: The best of these was 1989's "When Harry Met Sally ..." (directed by Rob Reiner), followed by "Sleepless in Seattle" in 1993 and "You've Got Mail" in 1998, both with Tom Hanks in winning form as Ryan's likable everyman co-star.
Decades later, you can still say the line, "I'll have what she's having," and everyone will instantly know what you're talking about. That's how lasting Ephron's work has been and will remain.
Back in the late '80s and early '90s, Kathryn Bigelow was a rare fellow female filmmaker — and since has gone on to become the only woman to win an Academy Award for best director, for "The Hurt Locker" — but she's focused on action pictures. Barbra Streisand also tried her hand at directing around this time with "Yentl," ''The Prince of Tides" and "The Mirror Has Two Faces." But Ephron continued on and endured, for better and for worse.