Nora Ephron (EHF-ron) was born into a literary family: Her father, Henry, and her mother, Phoebe (née Wolkind), both wrote stage plays and screenplays. Two of her three younger sisters, Delia and Amy, are also writers; only the third Ephron daughter, Hallie, has not followed in the family tradition. Ephron’s parents wrote a hit play, Three’s a Family, based on life with Nora when she was two years old, and later a successful play, Take Her, She’s Mine, based on her letters from college. Ephron has said that her mother also encouraged her to write from a personal perspective, telling her “Take notes. Everything is copy.”
When Ephron was three years old, the family moved from New York to Beverly Hills. An intelligent, skinny teenager, Ephron felt unattractive in the glamorous California community where young women were rewarded more for beauty than for brains. As soon as she graduated from high school, she returned to the East Coast. After obtaining her B.A. at Wellesley College in 1962, she worked for several years as a reporter for the New York Post, then freelanced until 1972, when she became a columnist and contributing editor at Esquire. In 1973 she moved to New York in the same capacities. At both magazines her writing concentrated on women and the feminist movement. Witty, ironic, and perceptive, Ephron covered topics ranging from college reunions and cooking contests to the impact of breast size, and she profiled newsworthy women ranging from Julie Nixon Eisenhower to pornographic movie star Linda Lovelace. Many of these essays were collected in her book Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women. Returning to Esquire in 1974 as senior editor and columnist, she turned her attention to the media, the subject of her third book of essays.
Ephron’s first marriage, to humorist Dan Greenburg, ended in divorce in 1967. In 1976 she married journalist Carl Bernstein, renowned for his role in exposing the Watergate political scandal. Ephron and Bernstein were a popular, high-profile couple in East Coast literary and social circles. The marriage collapsed in scandal in 1979, however, after Bernstein announced to Ephron, seven months pregnant with their second...
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The oldest of four daughters, Nora Ephron was born in New York City but raised in Hollywood, California. Her parents, Henry and Phoebe Ephron, were screenwriters, and their children grew up in the rarefied atmosphere of the film industry. Influential house guests included the witty New York writer Dorothy Parker, in whose footsteps Ephron dreamed of following. The professional life led by Ephron’s mother gave Ephron a will to succeed on her own talents rather than by nurturing a man’s ambitions. Hollywood exposed her to fashion, cinema, and cuisine, all of which became topics in her writing.
After graduating from Wellesley College in 1962, Ephron worked...
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Abramowitz, Rachel. Is That a Gun in Your Pocket? Women’s Experience of Power in Hollywood. New York: Random House, 2000. Ephron is among the Hollywood women interviewed and assessed in this sweeping work.
Bennetts, Leslie. “Nora’s Arc.” Vanity Fair 55, no. 2 (February, 1992): 76. Discusses Ephron’s directorial debut.
Ephron, Henry. We Thought We Could Do Anything: The Life of Screenwriters Phoebe and Henry Ephron. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977. Ephron’s father relates the story of his and his wife’s lives and careers, including material on Nora’s childhood and social life. The book contains Henry Ephron’s occasional comments on Nora’s adult sense of herself, as well as an epilogue by Nora Ephron in which she discusses her mother as a role model.
Ephron, Nora. “Ephron.” Interview by Peter Biskind. Premiere, 1996, 106. Ephron discusses her career in motion pictures and her relationship to Hollywood.
Ephron, Nora. “Nora Ephron: The Us Interview.” Interview by Nancy Collins. Us 253 (February, 1999): 60. A detailed interview conducted after the release of You’ve Got Mail, includes discussions of Ephron’s childhood, relationships, other biographical information, and photographs.
Ephron, Nora. “This Is Their Lives.” Interview by Wendy Wasserstein. Harper’s Bazaar 126, no. 3378 (June, 1993): 50. An interview with Ephron by the noted feminist playwright.
Palmer, William J. The Films of the Eighties: A Social History. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993. With chapters such as “The Yuppie Texts” and “Neoconservative Feminist Texts,” this social and political analysis covers films of the time period. Admiring Silkwood for its working-class and anti-corporate perspective and its accuracy, the author sees Heartburn as a yuppie film in which having a good job makes up for personal failings.
Walker, Nancy. “Ironic Autobiography: From The Waterfall to The Handmaid’s Tale.” Women’s Studies 15, nos. 1-3 (1988): 203-220. Walker analyzes Ephron’s novel Heartburn, comparing it to novels by authors Margaret Atwood, Fay Weldon, and Margaret Drabble. Walker sees these novels as employing an ironic autobiographical approach in which a narrator presents a split self who comments on her own embeddedness in a feminine cultural system. The humor generated by this comedic irony undermines the authority of male-dominant definitions and becomes a means for the female characters to control their stories and ultimately their lives.