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Nora Ephron, prolific writer and filmmaker, dies at age 71

By Alan Duke and Faith Karimi, CNN
December 11, 2012 -- Updated 2209 GMT (0609 HKT)
Writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron, pictured in her New York home in 2010, died at age 71 on Tuesday, June 26. She is known for her romantic comedies with strong female characters. Writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron, pictured in her New York home in 2010, died at age 71 on Tuesday, June 26. She is known for her romantic comedies with strong female characters.
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Nora Ephron through the years
Nora Ephron through the years
Nora Ephron through the years
Nora Ephron through the years
Nora Ephron through the years
Nora Ephron through the years
Nora Ephron through the years
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ephron, 71, is known for creating strong female characters in her stories
  • She got Oscar nominations for screenplays, including "When Harry Met Sally"
  • She also directed "Julie & Julia," which earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination
  • "She changed romantic comedy forever," actress Debra Messing says

(CNN) -- Nora Ephron, the screenwriter and director whose sharp, edgy romantic comedies featuring strong women took her to the top ranks of a film industry mostly dominated by men, has died.

She was 71.

Ephron died Tuesday surrounded by relatives at a New York hospital, where she was undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, her family said in a statement.

The best of Nora Ephron

She wore many hats: essayist, playwright, journalist, novelist, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director.

An accomplished screenwriter, her romantic comedies featured strong but appealing characters who tackled relationship issues with a comic insight into their situations.

They included box office hits "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle," both of which earned her screenwriting Oscar nominations.

Ephron mourned as 'brilliant' writer, humorist

Writer Nora Ephron dead at 71
Before there was "Friends With Benefits" and "No Strings Attached," the Nora Ephron-scripted "When Harry Met Sally ..." asked, "Can men and women ever just be friends?" After 12 years of debating the ubiquitous question, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) realize they're perfect for each other. And, as Harry says, "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." Before there was "Friends With Benefits" and "No Strings Attached," the Nora Ephron-scripted "When Harry Met Sally ..." asked, "Can men and women ever just be friends?" After 12 years of debating the ubiquitous question, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) realize they're perfect for each other. And, as Harry says, "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
'When Harry Met Sally...'
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Nora Ephron\'s \'happily ever afters\' Nora Ephron's 'happily ever afters'

She also received an Oscar nomination for "Silkwood," the story of anti-nuclear activist Karen Silkwood.

"An amazingly talented girl who was able to accomplish everything she set her mind to with great style and will be missed enormously," actor Martin Landau said in a statement.

Ephron also wrote and directed "Julie & Julia," which earned Meryl Streep a best actress Oscar nomination in 2010.

"What a loss. A magnificent spirit and voice. She changed romantic comedy forever," actress Debra Messing said.

Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, into a family of writers.

Her parents, Henry and Phoebe Ephron, wrote screenplays for "Carousel," "Desk Set" and "There's No Business Like Show Business."

From the archives: Nora Ephron's best advice

While her parents' works live on through movie rentals and classic film channels, perhaps the elder Ephrons' true legacy is their daughters.

Nora Ephron made her directorial debut with the 1992 comedy, "This Is My Life," which she co-wrote with her sister, Delia.

Both sisters also put together a production fashioned around Ilene Beckerman's best-selling book "Love, Loss and What I Wore."

Ephron believes her parents' humor was a big part of her productions.

"They were funny and they believed that everything was copy," Ephron said in 2009. "They believed that anything in life could be turned into a story, which is really the first rule of humor. I don't think you can get through almost anything without humor."

She married screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi in 1987, eight years after she divorced investigative reporter Carl Bernstein. Her failed marriage to Bernstein was the basis of her book and movie, "Heartburn."

From the archives: A story told through clothes and Ephrons

"I feel bad for the people who don't at some point understand that there's something funny in even the worst things that can happen to you," Ephron said.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Ephron's stories set in his city are classics.

"You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle," her romantic comedies starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, were among her movies that featured a lot of the city's iconic buildings as a backdrop.

"The loss of Nora Ephron is a devastating one for New York City's arts and cultural community," Bloomberg said in a statement. "From her earliest days at New York City's newspapers to her biggest Hollywood successes, Nora always loved a good New York story, and she could tell them like no one else."

Female writers to Nora Ephron: 'I'll have what she's having'

In addition to making movies, Ephron also tackled writing in many other forms. Her essays include "I Remember Nothing" and "Crazy Salad." She also wrote the 2002 play, "Imaginary Friends."

Three years ago, Ephron provided a list of some of the best advice she's ever got.

It included "life is too short" and "location, location, location," an appropriate sentiment for a director whose romantic comedies focused on seizing the moment in major metropolitan cities.

People we've lost in 2012: the lives they lived

Do you have memories connected to Nora Ephron's works? Share with us in the comments below and on CNN iReport.

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