30 Days of Screenplays, Day 21: “When Harry Met Sally”

June 21st, 2013 by

Welcome to June and the series: 30 Days of Screenplays.

Why 30 screenplays in 30 days?

Because whether you are a novice just starting to learn the craft of screenwriting or someone who has been writing for many years, you should be reading scripts.

There is a certain type of knowledge and understanding about screenwriting you can only get from reading scripts, giving you an innate sense of pace, feel, tone, style, how to approach writing scenes, how create flow, and so forth.

So each day this month, I will provide background on and access to a notable movie script.

Today is Day 21 and the featured screenplay is for the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally. You may download a PDF of the script here.

Background: Original screenplay written by Nora Ephron.

Plot summary: Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship.

Tagline: Can men and women be friends or does sex always get in the way?

Awards: Nominated for WGA Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, nominated for Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Trivia: For the infamous orgasm scene, the original script called for just Harry and Sally to talk about women faking an orgasm, until Meg Ryan suggested that Sally actually fake an orgasm at the table. Rob Reiner loved the idea and put it into the script.

http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/essential-movies/534-1.jpg

I’ll be honest: I’m not the biggest fan in the world of rom-coms. At least I say that. Then when I start ticking off some of my favorite movies — The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Annie Hall, Bull Durham – I realize I’m basically full of it. Same goes with When Harry Met Sally. I had really low expectations when I went to see the movie when it first came out. And of course, loved it. Which is interesting because it’s a very ‘slight’ film. We know little about the backgrounds of Harry or Sally, and nothing much happens except the couple falls in love. And yet, somehow the story works.

Sure, the dialogue sparkles as one would expect from a Nora Ephron penned script. But the key, I think, is that the movie stays laser targeted on the central question of the story, right there one of the taglines: Can two friends sleep together and still be love each other in the morning?

From the very first moment the two meet, it’s inevitable they will have sex. That is a subtext that plays out through all of Act One and most of Act Two until they do, indeed, sleep together. So the story has the tension of when they’ll do it, then how they’ll react afterward.

The movie is an interesting interplay of two quite different world views as represented by Harry and Sally, and almost all just that. Female viewers and male viewers get to project themselves into those worlds views to experience the tension between the two. And there is that terrific ending:

Whatever the magic, it’s a wonderful movie – and script.

What’s your take on Platoon? Stop by comments and post your thoughts.

To see all of the posts in the 30 Days of Screenplays series, go here.

This series and use of screenplays is for educational purposes only!

2 thoughts on “30 Days of Screenplays, Day 21: “When Harry Met Sally”

  1. MindTheInk says:

    Big fan of this one, even though I, also, would classify myself as not generally a fan of romantic comedies.

    Wrote a rather lengthy “review” of the script awhile back: http://www.mindtheink.com/2012/when-harry-met-sally-script-review/

    Quite a bit to learn from the screenplay. Highly recommend it to any screenwriter who hasn’t gone through it yet.

  2. Kalen says:

    Best part about this script: simplicity. There’s hardly any exposition. There’s nothing we, as an audience, don’t need to see (or read). It jumps right into the story and ends abruptly. Love it.

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