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Nora Ephron: Hollywood trailblazer of romantic comedies for smart women

Nora Ephron was a rare woman writing and directing in the male-dominated industry of filmmaking. Nora Ephron wrote romantic comedies for smart women, about smart women.

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Director and writer Nora Ephron, left, and actors Meryl Streep, center, and Amy Adams pose together at the premiere of "Julie and Julia" in Los Angeles in 2007. Nora Ephron passed on Tuesday. (

AP Photo/Matt Sayles, file)

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Before Nancy Meyers, before Sofia Coppola, before Julie Delpy and Kasi Lemmons and Nicole Holofcener, there was Nora Ephron.

She was a rare woman writing and directing in what was (and still is) the male-dominated industry of filmmaking. Ephron staked out her spot on the cinematic landscape with a distinctive voice and formidable wit. Now, she leaves behind a legacy of classic moments and quotable lines after passing on Tuesday at age 71.

The very mention of her name calls to mind a certain kind of movie, something you can't say about many filmmakers, regardless of their gender. They were romantic comedies, yes, but ones for smart women, about smart women, with characters who had both bite and vulnerability to them. Maybe they were a tad too hyper-analytical or neurotic but they were always highly verbal and, more often than not, destined for the kind of happy ending they deserved.

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Meg Ryan forged and reinforced her status as America's Sweetheart with roles in movies Ephron either wrote or wrote and directed: The best of these was 1989's "When Harry Met Sally ... (directed by Rob Reiner)," followed by "Sleepless in Seattle" in 1993 and "You've Got Mail" in 1998, both with Tom Hanks in winning form as Ryan's likable everyman co-star.

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