The most unforgettable — and oft-quoted — scene from “When Harry Met Sally” showed Ryan faking a loud orgasm in front of Crystal over lunch at a delicatessen. After Ryan’s intense moment, a woman at a nearby booth tells the waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Ms. Ephron said it was Ryan’s idea to film the scene in the deli, and it was Crystal who came up with the one-liner. But the core idea came from talks between Ms. Ephron and Reiner.
“One day, we were sitting around and Rob said to me, ‘You know, we’ve told you all this stuff that you didn’t know about men, now you tell us something we don’t know about women,’ ” Ms. Ephron told an audience at a book reading in 2006. “It was almost like, ‘I dare you.’ And I said, ‘Well, women fake orgasms.’ And he said, ‘Not with me.’ ”
“And I said, ‘Yes, we do,’ ” she added. “Maybe not all the time, but sometimes. He still didn’t believe me. So we went thundering into the bullpen at Castle Rock Pictures where all the women work, and he asked them, ‘Is it true that women fake orgasms?’ And all these women nodded yes. What a shock that scene was for men.”
“That’s my career, right there,” Ms. Ephron quipped.
Nora Louise Ephron was born May 19, 1941, in Manhattan and raised in Beverly Hills, Calif., where she once joked of “loving the smell of mink, the smell of the pavement after it rained and the smell of dollar bills.”
Her parents were prosperous but heavy-drinking Broadway playwrights, Henry Ephron and the former Phoebe Wolkind, and Nora was the first of their four daughters. The younger Ephron siblings, Amy, Delia and Hallie, also became writers.
From their earliest years, the Ephron children were trained to come to the dinner table prepared to tell stories. Nora Ephron said that many of the tales — how a younger sister got her head caught in the banister and the fire department came to the rescue — became plot devices in their parents’ films. Years later, Nora Ephron’s letters home from Wellesley College were the source of her parents’ Broadway comedy “Take Her, She’s Mine” (1961), which became a film starring James Stewart and Sandra Dee.
After graduating in 1962 from Wellesley, Ms. Ephron spent five years as a general assignment reporter at the New York Post before leaving daily journalism in 1968 to freelance for large-circulation magazines such as Good Housekeeping. Many of the pieces, on cultural trends, were published in her first book-length collection, “Wallflower at the Orgy” (1970).