Hey folks, Harry here... Nora Ephron has died. Most people will remember her for WHEN HARRY MET SALLY's screenplay, or her helmed hits for SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and YOU'VE GOT MAIL. For me, it comes down to SILKWOOD, that script with that cast was just amazing. It is a perfect scary corporate shenanigan story told with absolute authenticity. But mainly, I remember Nora Ephron from a chance encounter that helped my dad out immensely.
Nora Ephron came to Austin to make the film MICHAEL. Yes, the John Travolta as an angel movie. It isn't a particularly good film. I remember it mainly for two reasons. The first was that John Travolta named Threadgill's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie as the best pie in Austin... and then there was the time, before production, when they were just setting up their offices. Sean Daniels and Nora Ephron came to CITY WIDE GARAGE SALE, where Father Geek and I were set up selling our collectibles, when Nora Ephron came into our booth and spent nearly an hour flipping through the poster stacks, just enthusiastically talking about the different titles, the beauty of the poster art and wanting to know how a collection like what Dad & I had, how we could bear to part with them.
She wound up renting 3 poster REEFER MADNESS (an original), THE MARK OF ZORRO (featured on this week's AINT IT COOL show) and CALL OF THE WILD with Clark Gable. Rather than buy the posters, they wanted to rent them for her office while she was in town making MICHAEL. Ultimately, we never got the CALL OF THE WILD back, because her producer Sean Daniels wound up just buying that poster. But the rental fees, which MICHAEL paid up front went directly to pay FatherGeek's LEGAL DEFENSE FUND (of which, it was 100% responsible for!)
What heinous crime had FatherGeek perpetrated? What possible offense could good ol FatherGeek do?
He had rented Akira Kurosawa's RAN from I LUV VIDEO here in Austin - along with about 4 other titles that he was showing me and my little sister. But RAN was not returned. My little sis, about 8 years old at the time, inadvertently shoved the tape under the couch, where DAD didn't find it till he moved. He returned the tape. Well, Dad got pulled over with a busted headlight, and Austin's sheriff was trying to boost his arrest record and suddenly took all these dead files (this was years previously) and issued arrest warrants on tons of outdated cases. Dad was arrested, but his lawyer needed a large retainer. The late fees on that Akira Kurosawa's RAN had apparently reached over a $1000 dollars. The lawyer handled the case, but it was Nora's taste in posters that allowed for us to hire the lawyer that got the entire case dismissed. Yes, Dad almost went to jail... because of Kurosawa's RAN. His lawyer cited the BLOCKBUSTER Supreme Court ruling that penalty fees can not exceed the value of the original item in question. But when nobody from I LUV VIDEO showed up she moved for dismissal.
This went down the year before AICN came about. I was just a college student and a collectibles dealer. Nora made me feel special. She struck me as a very sweet & cool person that genuinely admired someone with film knowledge. She thanked me when we came to pick up the posters and was just absolutely gracious. She even gave us the frames that she had them put in.
That said, I don't like MICHAEL. At all. There's a fond rememberance about it shooting here - and it did personally benefit my family. But yeah, I didn't like it.
Of the films she gave to the world by the power of her typewriter or as a director, I love unabashedly SILKWOOD, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, MY BLUE HEAVEN, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and YOU'VE GOT MAIL. I was always disappointed that she didn't get to direct more often. But it isn't an easy biz, even if you were Nora Ephron. She made films with characters you were supposed to love - and in the films of hers I listed here... That's entirely accurate. Sure they were sweet, oh so gooey sweet - but I love a good fun sweet story. I just wonder if she had any other scripts like SILKWOOD that her success with Romantic Comedy caused to stall. SILKWOOD is an amazing film - and she was nominated along with her co-credited screenwriter, Alice Arlen. Really great. Sort of film that is almost never made these days, and certainly not as well written, directed or performed. Cher, Meryl & Kurt were all great.
I'm truly sad at her passing. I was a nobody and she certainly did not treat me that way. It was her and Sean Daniels' awesome sweetness that day - that told me that maybe there were some cool folks in Hollywood. That just because they're well established, highly lauded and probably rolling in the dough - that just like me and most of you... they loved films. From that experience, beyond any doubt I know, Nora Ephron loved film and film will certainly miss her.