Nora’s Neck, Meryl’s Eyes

I focus today not on Nora Ephron’s abundant humor — a mighty legacy in itself — but her gift of poignancy.

I wish I’d had a chance to ask her about her script of Julie and Julia and its most powerful scene. It is when Meryl Streep, playing Julia Child, and on a stroll in Paris, comes across a woman pushing a baby carriage. Streep gazes at the infant and breaks out into one of her miraculous smiles, but her expression changes instantly to one of despair. How can a script instruct an actor to do something like that — to indicate in a matter of a second or two her childless state, without ever saying a word?

Maybe it’s this that I will remember most about the work of Nora Ephron– not her neck, which she didn’t like, not for her seminal novel, Heartburn, and for the pure delight of picturing a key lime pie smashed into the face of that hussy Thelma Rice, not for that scene in Sleepless in Seattle when the women in the group cry over memories of the great tearjerker, An Affair to Remember, and the men, mocking, begin crying over the scene in the Dirty Dozen when Jim Brown is gunned down by the Nazis.

Maybe all writers, this week, have a wish for themselves. “I’ll have what she’s having.”


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5 Responses to Nora’s Neck, Meryl’s Eyes

  1. Carolynn says:

    That she could communicate, so well, male/female absurdities, was an achievement of observational genius.
    And I paraphrase, what’s tiramisu? Someone will want me to do it and I don’t know what it is.

  2. Mary-Ann Tirone Smith says:

    In 1985, I was a guest of the Literary Guild, the Avis of Book-of-the-Month clubs, at their annual soiree on the roof of the St.Regis on 5th Avenue. My first novel, The Book of Phoebe, was an alternate selection, and all authors who made the Literary Guild cut were invited. Never mind that I rode in the elevator with Jeremy Irons who congratulated me. (There were a zillion people there, the authors wearing little roses pinned to their lapels or tops.) Once on the roof,that wasn’t a roof but had stars painted all over the ceiling, Nora Ephron asked me if I’d like to help her find her new boyfriend, Nick. She was pretty much glowing with love. So as we shouldered our way through the crowd, she said, “My mother’s name was Phoebe.” We had a wonderfully intimate conversation, two strangers, Nora demonstrating her incredible delight at making a new friend, one of her many virtues. Finally, I said, “That must be Nick.” There was a fellow in the near distance staring at her and wearing an identical glow.

  3. Dan Uitti says:

    Goodbye Nora Ephron.

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