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About half of Ephron’s movies have been firmly rejected by both critics and audiences, but the other half have become mainstays of their genre.“We always knew when I was at network television that there are certain movies, no matter if they’ve been out for a while and people have seen them already or rented the DVD—if it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s on, you’re going to watch ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ ” Ephron’s friend Howard Stringer, the chairman and chief executive of Sony Corporation, says.When Ephron wrote “Heartburn,” a best-selling roman à clef about walking out on Bernstein after discovering that he was having an affair while she was seven months pregnant with their second child, she grew more famous still.
(“Here is Carl Bernstein and adultery; there is Nora Ephron and child abuse.“It was a real unusual thing for a woman to be that height, and I think it had an enormous impact,” Streep said.“It was a handicap of sorts, certainly in the world into which she was born, in Pasadena, where women went East to school to get a husband.” Julia Child, whose epic contribution to American culture was “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” was a sensuous giant.Who knows who she would have been if she’d come out delicate and married a Republican banker, as her father had expected. Nora Ephron came of age three decades after Child, in a house “full of apples and peaches and milk,” in Beverly Hills. In a 1972 essay called “A Few Words About Breasts,” Ephron wrote, “If I had them, I would have been a completely different person.” Perhaps this is so.If Nora Ephron had been born buxom, what else besides that article might she not have written? “Sleepless in Seattle” might mean nothing but Northwestern insomnia. She is five-six (“or I used to be”), and, at sixty-eight, she is as slight as a sparrow. (“I watch her eat and I watch me eat and it’s like a heavenly princess and a barbarian,” Steve Martin, Ephron’s friend and the star of one of her early movies, “Mixed Nuts,” says.) “I’ve been in the Zone for a long time,” Ephron informed a group of women who had come to see her speak at the 92nd Street Y a few years ago, “and I’m tired of it.”When she is sitting, Ephron folds in on herself—she crosses her legs and holds her chin in her hand—and becomes very compact, a little origami of a person.