Nora Ephron’s Secret Heart
When Nora Ephron died in 2012, many who wrote to mourn her passing gave the impression of feeling they had lost someone close to them—regardless of whether or not they had known her personally. Nowhere was that feeling more common than in New York. Though she was the child of a pair of Hollywood screenwriters, grew up in Beverly Hills, and later directed eight of her own scripts, Ephron moved back to Manhattan after graduating from college and stayed there for most of the rest of her life. For New Yorkers of her generation—she was born in 1941—her essays and films, like those of Woody Allen, were a touchstone of identity and urban-nationalist pride.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the fact that she had spent virtually all her childhood and youth in Hollywood, Ephron romanticized New York unashamedly, describing it late in life as “the most exciting, magical, fraught-with-possibility place that you could ever live.” For that reason, preternaturally alert though she was to phoniness of all kinds, she could be fooled by New Yorkers who took themselves at their own outsized evaluation, never more so than in Lucky Guy, her posthumously produced 2013 play about the rowdy world of tabloid journalism. Having gotten her own start at the New York Post a half century earlier, she portrayed that world on stage with a starry-eyed cartoonishness that was at times embarrassing.
About the Author
Terry Teachout, Commentary’s critic-at-large and the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal, is the author of Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.