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"When Harry Met Sally" hits theaters

July 12, 1989
When Harry Met Sally
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Poster for Nora Ephron's classic film When Harry Met Sally (1989).

The movie When Harry Met Sally, which follows characters Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) and Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) through several decades of searching for love as they debate whether a man and a woman can be friends, debuted on July 12, 1989. Nora Ephron's screenplay was later nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. The most famous line in the film comes at the end of a scene in a deli, where Sally fakes an orgasm to prove to Harry that it can be faked. When she is finished, another customer delivers the line, "I'll have what she's having." A blockbuster success, When Harry Met Sally was just one of Ephron's many achievements in an industry dominated by powerful men. In addition to writing, Ephron has found success as a film director with several hit romantic comedies to her credit.

Born in 1941 to screenwriting parents Henry and Phoebe Ephron, Nora Ephron was surrounded by films and writers from a young age. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1962, Ephron became a journalist, working first as a reporter for the New York Post. She then became a columnist, contributing editor, and eventually senior editor at Esquire magazine, where she worked until 1978. In addition, she was a contributing editor at New York magazine in 1973 and 1974. Collections of her columns, known for their wit and their attention to both feminist concerns and pop culture, were published as Wallflower at the Orgy (1970) and Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women (1975).

In 1983, Ephron published the bestselling novel Heartburn, which was later made into a movie of the same name. In the same year, Ephron's first screenplay, written with Alice Arlen for Silkwood, was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1989, the same year that When Harry Met Sally was released, Ephron and Arlen produced the screenplay for Cookie. Later screenplays include My Blue Heaven (1990), This Is My Life (with sister Delia Ephron, 1992), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Mixed Nuts (with Delia Ephron, 1994), You've Got Mail (with Delia Ephron, 1998) and Hanging Up (with Delia Ephron, 2000).

Ephron made her directorial debut in 1992 with This Is My Life. She later directed Sleepless in Seattle, Mixed Nuts, and Michael (1996). Bewitched, which she directed and for which she co-wrote the screenplay, was released in 2005. In 2006, she published the bestselling I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Nora Ephron wrote and directed the smash hit Julie and Julia (2009)., starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child.

Nora Ephron died on June 26, 2012 at age 71.

To learn more about Nora Ephron, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

See also: Phoebe Ephron; "Ephron’s book: funny truth or big-time set-back?" and "When Harry Met Sally: 21 Years Later" and "Nora, you may remember nothing, but we remember you" on Jewesses with Attitude.

Sources: Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 378-379; New York Times, July 9, 1989, December 13, 1998; www.imdb.com/name/nm0001188/.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - "When Harry Met Sally" hits theaters." (Viewed on April 21, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/12/1989/nora-ephron>.