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4 Nora Ephron movies you didn’t know were Nora Ephron movies

Nora Ephron, famous for writing “When Harry Met Sally…” and writing and directing the “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail,” has passed away. She died Tuesday after a battle with leukemia.

When I heard she’d died, I went to IMDB to see what all she’d written and directed, and I was surprised.

When I think of her, I think of “Heartburn,” a fictionalized account of the unravelling of her marriage to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, and I think of those ’90s date movies with Meg Ryan.

In a long career, she made her share of classics, but it turns out that she’d written and/or directed a bunch of movies that don’t sound like Nora Ephron movies, at all:

1. “My Blue Heaven” (1990, writer). Steve Martin sports a crew cut and a tacky suit to play a gangster in the witness-protection program. Rick Moranis is the uptight FBI agent assigned to protect him.

2. “Mixed Nuts” (1994, writer and director). Steve Martin (again) runs a suicide-prevention hotline that’s being evicted on Christmas Eve. Gary Shandling plays the landlord. (It’s a comedy.)

3. “Lucky Numbers” (2000, director). John Travolta plays a TV weatherman who rigs the Pennsylvania state lottery.

4. “Bewitched” (2005, writer and director). Will Ferrell plays an actor playing Darrin in a remake of the ’60s TV series “Bewitched.” Nicole Kidman plays a witch who’s an actress who’s playing Samantha, the witch from the TV show. Steve Carell plays Paul Lynde, basically.

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13 thoughts on “4 Nora Ephron movies you didn’t know were Nora Ephron movies

  1. I’ve been a bit out of touch. I saw the news of her passing this morning and didn’t realize she’d been ill, but maybe that’s why “You’ve Got Mail” was on television this weekend. Her work really did influence a generation, didn’t it? Great post, T.

    • Here’s what I suspect happened: She pictured “Bewitched” as a comedy about how a guy deals with a woman who’s smarter and more powerful (and more magical) than he is, but then the studio made her cast Will Ferrell, because Will Ferrell movies make money, while Nicole Kidman movies don’t make nearly as much. Then, at the test screenings, the young, suburban teenagers indicated they wanted more Will Ferrell wackiness, so they played up the wackiness and dialed back everything else.

  2. I really didn’t know about her films but she was a terrific writer. She did a piece on why she hated her purse that will always be a personal favorite. I hate purses also.

    • I heard her on NPR yesterday talking about how we live in a golden age of bread. She said never before had we had access to such different and delicous breads, and I thought, “Well, huh. She’s right!”

  3. I haven’t seen Lucky Numbers, but I love, love, love the other three. Bewitched is the only one I always remember as her film. As many times as I’ve seen the other two, I didn’t realize My Blue Heaven was hers. I knew Mixed Nuts, but feel surprised every time I “re-learn” it. It’s very sad that she’s gone, for her family, but also for all of us. She was very talented.

  4. On the piece I heard on NPR, she said “My Blue Heaven” came about because her husband’s the guy who wrote “Goodfellas,” about a mobster named Henry Hill who wound up going into the witness protection program. He was a real guy, and Nora Ephron said she’d call her husband all the time asking for bail money; he just couldn’t go straight. He got busted for burglary, jaywalking, you name it. She said it was kind of funny, so she wrote “My Blue Heaven,” meaning, I guess, that “My Blue Heaven” is the sequel to “Goodfellas.”

    • I read a book about that guy. It was written by his son, and was not at all flattering. Basically, just what you said, only worse – and not at all funny. They had to move several times while in witness protection because he kept exposing them. If he wasn’t getting in trouble and doing drugs and stuff, then he was bragging about who he really was, or going back home to visit, or whatever. If I remember it correctly, he wrote the book that the movie was based on, published it, etc – all the way through the movie being released – while he was still supposed to be hiding out in witness protection. The authorities were always pissed at him. This poor kid and his sister had a real rough time of it. Apparently, Hill really thought he was that guy from his book and the movie, as opposed to who and what he really was.

      Interesting that My Blue Heaven was inspired by that. I’ve always loved that movie. It’s silly and funny and kind of sweet.

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