With the passing of Nora Ephron, the cinema has lost one if its great screenwriters (a three-time Oscar® nominee) and directors, a humorist whose poignant insights into relationships were punctuated by characters defined by a plucky individualism.
That Ephron's gender plays such a huge part of her story-nearly every obit made a point to stress her importance as a female director concerned with women's issues (PC code for Chick Flicks)-is not an accident. Ephron herself often foregrounded her sex front and center. From the New York Times obit: "In a commencement address she delivered in 1996 at Wellesley College, her alma mater, Ms. Ephron recalled that women of her generation weren't expected to do much of anything. But she wound up having several careers, all of them successfully and many of them simultaneously. She was a journalist, a blogger, an essayist, a novelist, a playwright, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director - a rarity in a film industry whose directorial ranks were and continue to be dominated by men."
Ephron was sensitive to being pigeon-holed as well. From the aforementioned Times obit: "Ms. Ephron's collection "I Remember Nothing" concludes with two lists, one of things she says she won't miss and one of things she will. Among the 'won't miss' items are dry skin, Clarence Thomas, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, and panels on 'Women in Film.'" (Italics added)
Without diminishing Ephron's role as a pioneer in a male-dominated industry, whose career in film evolved from writer (Silkwood, Heartburn, When Harry Met Sally) to director (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Julie & Julia), we should first and foremost remember her as a filmmaker and writer.
Let us also hope that someday fixating on the gender of a great screenwriter and director will be as anachronistic as the AOL-inspired title of Eprhon's You've Got Mail and it's central plot point wherein a major bookstore chain (ha ha ha ha!) puts a little indie bookstore out of business.
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