The Nora Ephron Trifecta Trifecta: The Christian Hipster’s Guide to the Movies.

The Nora Ephron Trifecta Trifecta

Between 1989 and 1998 (nine years, or three cubed) Norah Ephron wrote three romantic comedies starring Meg Ryan.  They are her most well known films, the New York trifecta:


• When Harry Met Sally…, 1989, written by Norah Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner.
• Sleepless in Seattle, 1993, written and directed by Ephron (with Jeff Arch and David S. Ward).
• You’ve Got Mail, 1998, written and directed by Ephron (co-written by her sister Delia, and with WGA writing credits given to Miklos Lazlo for the play “Parfumerie”).

But, “rule of three” loving Hipsters, that’s not all:

Alfred (Jimmy Stewart) comforts a sick Klara (Margaret Sullavan) much the same way Joe (Hanks) will comfort Kathleen (Ryan) in the remake post remake.

You’ve Got Mail is a remake of a remake. Originally a play, the story was first adapted to the screen by Ernst Lubitsch in 1940 as The Shop Around the Corner. In 1949 MGM released an adaptation starring Judy Garland and co-written/co-directed by Buster Keaton called In the Good Old Summertime.

Sleepless in Seattle is heavily influenced by the film An Affair to Remember, citing the film at least three times. Leo McCarey directed Love Affair in 1939 with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. He remade the film in 1957 as An Affair to Remember, with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Citing their personal ownership of the story, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty starred in the 1994 remake also called Love Affair.

When Harry Met Sally… follows the story of two people who meet in college, see each other five years later, then become friends and eventually lovers five years after that, the third time being (of course) the charm.

Now old enough to not be mainstream, and beloved by Hipsters who grew up watching them, Nora Ephron’s hat trick also contains the following:

New York landmarks integral to the story: The Empire State Building is the first and only place they really meet.

• Each of the films uses at least one New York landmark in an iconic scene. The famous sandwich orgasm scene takes place at Katz’s Deli in Harry. Hanks and Ryan finally say hello at the top of the Empire State Building in Sleepless. The entire Upper West Side is the setting for Mail.

• Each film has a classic film muse. Harry references Casablanca. A scene Sleepless sees Meg Ryan and Rosie O’Donnell’s characters quoting An Affair to Remember as they watch it. In Mail Tom Hanks’ character quotes The Godfather, and the Coppola film becomes a subject of discussion between the mail characters, much as Casablanca did in Harry.

• Each film have Christmas sequences. Harry ends at a New Year’s Party. Sleepless ends on Valentine’s Day, and Mailends in the spring (on Easter?).

Harry Burns: The first time we met, we hated each other.
Sally Albright: No, you didn’t hate me, I hated you. The second time we met, you didn’t even remember me.
Harry Burns: I did too, I remembered you. The third time we met, we became friends.
Sally Albright: We were friends for a long time.
Harry Burns: And then we weren’t.
Sally Albright: And then we fell in love. Three months later we got married.
Harry Burns: Yeah, it only took three months.
Sally Albright: Twelve years and three months.

Harry meets Sally. You do the math…


About jenletherer

BA, Theater and Speech Communication; English:Creative Writing. Siena Heights University, 2002. MFA, Film Production. Boston University, 2005
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