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Screenwriter Nora Ephron Dead at Age 71

Nora Ephron, author, screenwriter and chronicler of wry, wistful romance comedies like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” died June 26 in New York. She was 71.

The cause of death was pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia, her son Jacob Bernstein told the New York Times.

Known for her honest, self-deprecating style and sharp-edged humor, Ephron directed eight feature films and a dozen screenplays, three of which earned her Oscar nominations: “Sleepless in Seattle,” “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Silkwood.” Her more recent successes include “You’ve Got Mail” and “Julie & Julia.” She also wrote plays and magazine articles and authored books, including two bestselling collections of essays, “I Feel Bad About My Neck” and “I Remember Nothing.”

In the words of the New York Times, “all her articles were characterized by humor and honesty, written in a clear, direct, understated style marked by an impeccable sense of when to deploy the punchline.”

And the Los Angeles Times said this about her films:

It was in 1989, with the release of “When Harry Met Sally,” that Ephron firmly established herself as Hollywood’s mother of the modern romantic comedy, carrying the escapist, fast-paced style of 1930s screwball comedies into the 20th century by tackling subjects like divorce and email. She said that all romantic comedies were essentially mash-ups of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” but Ephron injected the formula with a populist, somewhat sentimental flavor.

“There’s a thing I wrote in ‘Heartburn’ that I can’t remember exactly, but it says that no one is more romantic than a cynic, or something like that,” Ephron said in an interview with The Times several years ago. “I do think that you don’t become cynical or ‘unsentimental’ unless there’s a core of romanticism or sentiment that’s had a few chips nicked into it. Is every cynic a romantic at the core, or are some cynics cynics at the core? I don’t know. Probably there are.”

She was born in 1941 in New York and raised in Beverly Hills to a family of screenwriters.

At the time of her death, Ephron was working on a biographical movie about singer Peggy Lee that was due to star Reese Witherspoon, according to the Internet movie website, IMDB.com, Reuters reports.

She is survived by her husband, writer Nicholas Pileggi and her two sons from her second marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein, Jacob and Max Bernstein.

Photo credit: Nora Ephron attends the ‘Julie & Julia’ premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre on July 30, 2009 in New York City. Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

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