“And when you say ‘No, no, no it’s not true, nothing is missing from the relationship,’ the person you’re involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you’re just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let’s face it.”
I’ve had a friendship since my teens that’s been a primary relationship through many ebbs and flows in my life. He’s been a shoulder to cry on many times – and when he has encountered a crisis in his, I’m the first one he calls. He’s straight – married with children. I know from the outside looking in, people who have seen us interact think we’re romantically involved. He finishes my sentences and knows me as well as anybody will. There have been gatherings in which I’ve taken him instead of my longtime companion, and people have wondered if I’m dating someone else. I read an article in which the late Nora Ephron spoke about developing the script for “When Harry Met Sally…” and how she mined the real-life friendship between director Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal. For example, the famous scene in which the screen splits in two as the two main characters watch “Casablanca” is based on an actual exchange between the two male friends. Using “Casablanca” is such a cool choice. I know the primary thrust of its usage is about the discussion about why Elsa doesn’t choose to stay. “He wants her to leave. That’s why he puts her on the plane,” argues Harry. But Louis and Rick’s friendship – the bromance between the bar owner and the French officer is what has always fascinated me about the Bogart classic. Remember that the last moment of the film is the two men walking on a diagonal to the upper corners of the frame uttering the words “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…” That scene is duplicated in “When Harry Met Sally…” – but now with a male and female walking on the same angle towards Washington Park – and in similar lighting with Crystal asking “Are we becoming friends now?”
This may come across as sacrilegious to some of you, but I was not a fan of this film when I first saw it. The purist cinephile in me was turned off about the fact that it felt like a distilled version of a Woody Allen comedy – a more mainstream version of “Annie Hall” and “Hannah and Her Sisters” – including even similar title cards – utilizing the great American songbook as its soundtrack and New York City as its backdrop. The curmudgeon in me couldn’t get past that – and Meg Ryan always felt to me like she mugged too much.
What a mush I have become. If anything COVID has taught me is to look at the glass half-full. I’m done looking for defects. I look at the things that work. I’m all about admiring the positives. And there are quite a lot of them in “When Harry Met Sally…” This time around I was taken. I admire the sturdiness of the script’s structure – and the beautiful dialogue. Its set-up is pretty swift. It’s immediately established that Harry and Sally have just met and are sharing a drive from Chicago to NYC – and we get to know them as they find out about each other. “You realize of course that we could never be friends,” he tells her. “What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” And we will see their life in episodes, meeting every so often until two heartbeats become one.
The director of photography is Barry Sonnenfeld who will go on to have a successful career helming “The Addams Family” (1993) and “Men In Black” (1997). He’d done remarkable work with the Coen Brothers in “Blood Simple” and “Raising Arizona.” I was enthralled with his lighting in this film. The way he captures New York City colors – and the trajectory of their relationship is pure magic. Notice as Harry and Sally start to connect that the foliage seems to respond to their feelings. By the time we get to their walk in Central Park – the orange hues are overwhelmingly beautiful hanging above them – and there’s a middle layer of bright greens on the horizon line – while the ground is burnt orange. “What do you have, a hot date?” Harry asks her inside the Metropolitan Museum with the huge windows overlooking the park outside in all its fall splendor. It’s almost operatic.
Marc Shaiman selected and arranged the standards heard, and they make me swoon. I’d forgotten that this is what launched Harry Connick Jr.’s career and how he won his first Grammy for the recordings. I’m partial to listening to the real thing – and when I heard Frank Sinatra sing “It Had to Be You” in the climactic New Year’s Eve scene, I wept. This time around Meg Ryan proved lovely and a great comedienne – and a perfect match to Billy Crystal. There are so many perfect moments in this film. It’s aged well… and I have grown into a hopeless romantic.
How can I not love a film that defined the concept of “high maintenance.”
Harry Burns : “There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.”
Sally Albright : “Which one am I?”
Harry Burns : “You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.”
Sally Albright : “I don’t see that.”
Harry Burns : “You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. “On the side” is a very big thing for you.”
Sally Albright : “Well, I just want it the way I want it.”
Harry Burns : “I know; high maintenance.”
Available to stream on Showtime, Showtime Anytime, fuboTV and DIRECTV. Available to rent on Amazon Prime, Microsoft, iTunes, Apple TV, FandangoNOW and Redbox.
Written by Nora Ephron
Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby
Bringing “When Harry Met Sally…” to the Screen
The initial idea for “When Harry Met Sally…” evolved from Rob Reiner’s personal experiences as a man who had been married for several years, divorced and then thrown back into the dating pool again. “I had been single for ten years,” said Reiner, “and that really was the basis for the whole movie…trying to figure out how I could ever get with a woman again, and my single life and making a mess of it.” The actual script was a “true collaboration,” according to Reiner, between himself, producer Andrew Scheinman, writer Nora Ephron, with some notable contributions from stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Over lunch, Reiner and Scheinman shared their personal relationship stories with Nora Ephron, who in turn shared her own. For them, the humorous exchange illuminated the differences between a man’s perspective and a woman’s perspective on relationships. This “he said/she said” formula became the basis for the screenplay that Ephron eventually completed. Ephron herself provided the inspiration for one of Sally’s most distinctive character traits. Scheinman and Reiner noticed Ephron’s habit of placing complicated orders in restaurants, though she was oblivious to its comic effect. Reiner insisted that she put it in the script. Ephron’s ordering idiosyncrasies became Sally’s hilarious fixation with having everything provided “on the side” in the film. (tcm.com)
Billy Crystal on the Famous Scene Set in Katz’s Delicatessen
“It was about two weeks before shooting started. We were in a meeting, and Nora said, “I need something. There’s something missing. There’s the moment where Harry’s now been screwing around. He’s in revenge mode, and he’s this cocky little stud. Maybe we do a scene about how women fake orgasms.” And Rob was like, “What are you talking about?” “Well, women fake orgasms, Rob.” “Really? They never fake one with me.” So now that becomes a line of dialogue. Then Meg said, “I should have an orgasm! That would be hilarious.” And I went, “In a public place like a restaurant.” Nora goes wild. And then we’re all laughing. Then I said, “And then we’ll cut to an older woman who will say, ‘I’ll have what she’s having.’ ” And that’s how it happened. That’s how the movie got real, because of Meg and I and Nora and Rob sitting around, talking about, “How can we make it better?” (hollywoodreporter.com)
About Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld
Barry is a filmmaker and writer who broke into the film industry as the cinematographer on the Coen Brothers’ first three films: “Blood Simple,” “Raising Arizona,” and “Miller’s Crossing.” He also was the director of photography on “Throw Mamma from the Train,” “Big,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and “Misery.” Sonnenfeld made his directorial debut with “The Addams Family” in 1991, and has gone on to direct a number of films including “Addams Family Values,” “Get Shorty,” and the first three “Men in Black” films. His television credits include “Pushing Daisies,” for which he won an Emmy, and Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” (whoisbarrysonnenfeld.com) Sonnenfeld’s most recent works include “The Tick” (2016-2019) and “Men in Black: International” in 2019.
About Marc Shaiman
Marc Shaiman, award-winning composer, lyricist, orchestrator and musician, has successfully created music for TV, film and theater since entering show business at the age of 16 in 1976. Recently, Marc co-wrote the songs and composed the score for director Rob Marshall and Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns”, the film sequel to the classic film “Mary Poppins”. For his work on the film, Marc was nominated for a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Grammy Award, and two Oscar nominations; one for Best Original score, and one – along with his co-lyricist and longtime collaborator Scott Wittman – for Best Original song, “The Place Where Lost Things Go”. He is currently co-writing the score for a new musical version of “Some Like It Hot”, and writing music for the upcoming Broadway production of “Plaza Suite”. Marc has been Oscar nominated seven times (for “Mary Poppins Returns” (2), “Sleepless In Seattle”, “Patch Adams”, “The First Wives Club”, The American President” and “South Park-Bigger, Longer & Uncut”). He has received two Tony Award nominations (winning one for co-writing the score to “Hairspray” with co-lyricist Scott Wittman), five Grammy Awards nominations (winning one for The Original Cast Recording of “Hairspray”), eleven Emmy Awards (winning one for his work on Billy Crystal’s Academy Award hosting), four Golden Globe nominations (including “The Star”, song co-written with Mariah Carey), and two BAFTA nominations (“Sleepless In Seattle” and “Mary Poppins Returns”). Shaiman’s other film work includes “Beaches”, “When Harry Met Sally”, Misery”, “City Slickers”, “The Addams Family”, “Addams Family Values”, “A Few Good Men”, “Sister Act” (1 & 2), “George of the Jungle”, “In and Out”, “Hocus Pocus”, “The Bucket List” and “Parental Guidance”. He served as an Executive Producer of the successful film adaptation of his Broadway musical “Hairspray”. In addition to “Hairspray”, his other original Broadway musical credits are the Tony-nominated “Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me”, the Tony-winning “Catch Me If You Can”, and “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”. Broadway concert credits are “Peter Allen-Up In One”, Bette Midler’s “Divine Madness”, Ellie Greenwich’s “Leader Of The Pack” and “Patti LuPone On Broadway”.
After a tremendously successful concert for The Actor’s Fund, his musical “Bombshell”, created as part of the television show “Smash,” is now being developed into a future show. Shaiman has co-produced and arranged Grammy winning recordings for music icons such as Bette Midler, Harry Connick Jr. and Mariah Carey, including the Grammy-winning recordings “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and “From A Distance.” His television ventures include “The Sweeney Sisters” on SNL, countless award and talk show appearances with Billy Crystal, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Lane, Martin Short, Jenifer Lewis’s “Jackie’s Back”, the Emmy-winning “SNL 40th”, the aforementioned “Smash”, and his proudest achievement for television, his collaboration with Bette Midler for her Emmy-winning appearance as his final guest on Johnny Carson’s penultimate Tonight Show. Other performers with whom he has collaborated in concert, cabaret, film and television include Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Kristen Chenoweth, Eric Clapton. Christine Ebersole Kathy Griffin, Allison Janney, Jennifer Holiday, Jennifer Hudson, Diane Keaton, Steve Martin, John Mayer, Audra McDonald, Barbra Streisand, Queen Latifah and Robin Williams. At the legendary after-party for “SNL 40th,” he jammed on stage with Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Prince, and completely lost his shit. He is quite fond of “Prop 8 – The Musical”, the online opus he wrote for the website Funny or Die that earned him a Webby Award. In 2014 Shaiman & Wittman were celebrated by the New York Pops with a spectacular concert at Carnegie Hall. Marc was recently honored with the Ambassador Award by the Society of Composers and Lyricists in December 2018, and with the Icon Award at the Guild of Music Supervisors Awards in February 2019. Shaiman is currently married to retired Navy Lieutenant Commander, Louis Mirabal, and currently resides in New York City and upstate New York. (marcshaiman.com)
About Screenwriter Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the eldest of four sisters, all of whom became writers. That was no surprise; writing was the family business. Her father, Henry, and her mother, the former Phoebe Wolkind, were Hollywood screenwriters who wrote, among other films, “Carousel,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Captain Newman, M.D.” When Ms. Ephron was 4, her parents moved from New York to Beverly Hills, where she grew up, graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1958. At Wellesley, she began writing for the school newspaper, and in the summer of 1961 she was a summer intern in the Kennedy White House…After graduation from college in 1962, she moved to New York, a city she always adored, intent on becoming a journalist. Her first job was as a mail girl at Newsweek. (There were no mail boys, she later pointed out.) Soon she was contributing to a parody of The New York Post put out during the 1962 newspaper strike. Her piece of it earned her a tryout at The Post, where the publisher, Dorothy Schiff, remarked: “If they can parody The Post, they can write for it. Hire them.” Ms. Ephron stayed at The Post for five years, covering stories like the Beatles, the Star of India robbery at the American Museum of Natural History, and a pair of hooded seals at the Coney Island aquarium that refused to mate. “The Post was a terrible newspaper in the era I worked there,” she wrote, but added that the experience taught her to write short and to write around a subject, since the kinds of people she was assigned to cover were never going to give her much interview time. In the late 1960s Ms. Ephron turned to magazine journalism, at Esquire and New York mostly. She quickly made a name for herself by writing frank, funny personal essays — about the smallness of her breasts, for example — and tart, sharply observed profiles of people like Ayn Rand, Helen Gurley Brown and the composer and best-selling poet Rod McKuen. Some of these articles were controversial…But all her articles were characterized by humor and honesty, written in a clear, direct, understated style marked by an impeccable sense of when to deploy the punchline. (Many of her articles were assembled in the collections “Wallflower at the Orgy,” “Crazy Salad” and “Scribble Scribble.”) Ms. Ephron made as much fun of herself as of anyone else. She was labeled a practitioner of the New Journalism, with its embrace of novelistic devices in the name of reaching a deeper truth, but she always denied the connection. “I am not a new journalist, whatever that is,” she once wrote. “I just sit here at the typewriter and bang away at the old forms.”
Ms. Ephron got into the movie business more or less by accident after her marriage to Mr. Bernstein in 1976. He and Bob Woodward, his partner in the Watergate investigation, were unhappy with William Goldman’s script for the movie version of their book “All the President’s Men,” so Mr. Bernstein and Ms. Ephron took a stab at rewriting it. Their version was ultimately not used, but it was a useful learning experience, she later said, and it brought her to the attention of people in Hollywood. Her first screenplay, written with her friend Alice Arlen, was for “Silkwood,” a 1983 film based on the life of Karen Silkwood, who died under suspicious circumstances while investigating abuses at a plutonium plant where she had worked. Ms. Arlen was in film school then, and Ms. Ephron had scant experience writing for anything other than the page. But Mike Nichols, who directed the movie (which starred Ms. Streep and Kurt Russell), said that the script made an immediate impression on him. He and Ms. Ephron had become friends when she visited him on the set of “Catch-22.” “I think that was the beginning of her openly falling in love with the movies,” Mr. Nichols said…Ms. Ephron followed “Silkwood” three years later with a screenplay adaptation of her own novel “Heartburn,” which was also directed by Mr. Nichols. But it was her script for “When Harry Met Sally…,” which became a hit Rob Reiner movie in 1989 starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, that established Ms. Ephron’s gift for romantic comedy and for delayed but happy endings that reconcile couples who are clearly meant for each other but don’t know it…Her 1998 hit, “You’ve Got Mail,” for example, which she both wrote (with her sister Delia) and directed, is partly a remake of the old Ernst Lubitsch film ‘The Shop Around the Corner.” Ms. Ephron began directing because she knew from her parents’ example how powerless screenwriters are (at the end of their careers both became alcoholics) and because, as she said in her Wellesley address, Hollywood had never been very interested in making movies by or about women. She once wrote, “One of the best things about directing movies, as opposed to merely writing them, is that there’s no confusion about who’s to blame: you are.”
… Her first effort at directing, “This Is My Life” (1992), with a screenplay by Ms. Ephron and her sister Delia, based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer about a single mother trying to become a standup comedian, was a dud. But Ms. Ephron redeemed herself in 1993 with “Sleepless in Seattle” (she shared the screenwriting credits), which brought Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together so winningly that they were cast again in “You’ve Got Mail.” Among the other movies Ms. Ephron wrote and directed were “Lucky Numbers” (2000), “Bewitched” (2005) and, her last, “Julie & Julia” (2009), in which Ms. Streep played Julia Child…Ms. Ephron earned three Oscar nominations for best screenplay, for “Silkwood,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally….” But in all her moviemaking years she never gave up writing in other forms. Two essay collections, “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman” (2006) and “I Remember Nothing” (2010), were both best sellers. With her sister Delia she wrote a play, “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” about women and their wardrobes (once calling it “ ‘The Vagina Monologues’ without the vaginas”) and by herself she wrote “Imaginary Friends,” a play, produced in 2002, about the literary and personal quarrel between Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. She also became an enthusiastic blogger for The Huffington Post… Several years ago, Ms. Ephron learned that she had myelodysplastic syndrome, a pre-leukemic condition, but she kept the illness a secret from all but a few intimates and continued to lead a busy, sociable life…In addition to her son Jacob Bernstein, a journalist who writes frequently for the Styles section of The Times, Ms. Ephron is survived by Mr. Pileggi; another son, Max Bernstein, a rock musician; and her sisters Delia Ephron; Amy Ephron, who is also a screenwriter; and Hallie Ephron, a journalist and novelist. (nytimes.com)
About Director Rob Reiner
Robert Reiner was born to Emmy-Winning actor, comedian, writer, and producer Carl Reiner, and mother, Estelle Reiner. Robert as a child often looked up to his father as his inspiration and role-model. Carl Reiner was on The Dick Van Dike Show which Carl Reiner created and also starred in. Estelle Reiner was the inspiration for Rob Reiner to become a director. Robert’s mother was a singer, and Robert as a director it helped him understand how music was used in a scene, how the color on a set should be, the acting, and writing, and that was heavily influenced by his mother. Rob Reiner due to his father’s success eventually knew he was going to be apart of the industry. Rob Reiner often felt pressured how he would measure up to his father’s twelve Emmys and prestigious awards and honor success streak. When Rob Reiner graduated high school, he began to express further interest in show business, his parents advised him to go to Summer Theater. Reiner got a job as an apprentice in the Buck’s County Playhouse in Pennsylvania. Reiner then went to be further educated at UCLA Film School. Reiner felt he still wasn’t successful even having a recurring role on one of the hit-shows in the country. It was not until he was a director he felt truly successful. Rob Reiner directed Oscar-nominated movies such as “The Princess Bride,” “Stand By Me,” and “This Is Spinal Tap.” With these successful box-office movies in 1987, Robert Reiner founded his own production company called, Castle Rock Entertainment. Robert Reiner co-founded it along with Martin Shafer, Andrew Scheinman,Glenn Padnick, and Alan Horn. On Castle Rock Entertainment he went to direct several other Oscar-nominated movies, “When Harry Met Sally,” “Misery,” and “A Few Good Men.” Reiner often credits former co-star, Carroll O Connor in help him get into the directing business, and showing Reiner the “ropes”. Reiner also is known as a political activist, co-founding the American Foundation For Equal Rights. This group was an advisory for same-sex-marriage. Reiner has spoken at several rally’s on several controversial topics, still continuing to address controversial topics after being on the hit-show, “All In The Family.” Reiner was also seen as an advocate on social issues such as violence and tobacco use. Reiner has also made cameos on show like “30 Rock,” “The First Wives Club,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Primary Colors,” “Throw Momma From The Train,” “The Simpsons,” “Hannah Montana,” and several others. (guildhall.org)