The other night I was treated to a surprise airing of what I suspect is my favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail. That same day, I had been to Schlow Library here in State College and had borrowed Delia Ephron’s book, SisterMotherHusbandDog,which begins with a chapter about her sister, Nora Ephron, who directed the film and co-wrote it with Delia. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan—both of whom are at the top of their game in this film. Jean Stapleton, who played Edith Bunker on All in the Family, has an important supporting role.
You’ve Got Mail will, I believe, stand as a classic film--perhaps the defining romantic comedy of its generation--and is certainly in contention for Best Romantic Comedy Ever Made. The story is not new. The script is an update of a 1930s play, Parfumerie, by Miklos Lazslo, that was first adapted for the screen as The Shop Around the Corner in 1940 and remade as a musical, In the Good Old Summer Time, in 1949. You’ve Got Mail was made in 1998 and is still fresh 15 years later. While everyone contributed to it, Nora Ephron deserves the greatest credit for pulling it all together and adding two most important elements: the neighborhoods of New York City and, most important of all, the great soundtrack. Harry Nillson’s “Remember” and “I Guess the Lord Must Live in New York City”—along with the Cranberries “Dreams”—set the emotional stage for the action. Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and Randy Newman’s “Lonely at the Top” punctuate the plot with great energy and humor.
Nora Ephron gave us a lot of memorable films over the years, including another Hanks/Ryan hit Sleepless in Seattle and her last film, Julie and Julia (2009). Delia Ephron’s memoir of her sister comes as a wonderful and compassionate reminder of a great artist whose work will be with us for many years. Thanks to both of them, especially, for You’ve Got Mail.