MOTW: Five Fun Facts about "When Harry Met Sally..."

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
December 31st, 2013

MOTW: Five Fun Facts about "When Harry Met Sally..."

"When Harry Met Sally..." is one of the most memorable romantic comedies ever to hit theaters. Starring Billy Crystal as Harry Bums and Meg Ryan as Sally Albright, the film was released in 1989 and explores the timeless debate of whether or not men and women can ever be just friends without sex getting in the way. The plot follows the two title characters over the course of twelve years and a number of chance encounters. The two develop a close friendship while they are separately searching—and failing—to find love. The romantic comedy has an uplifting ending that delights audiences. The movie garnered mostly positive reviews, an Oscar nomination, and five Golden Globe nominations. Although you may have seen the movie, here are five fun things you probably don't know.

Some of the characters in the movie have real-life counterparts. The character Harry is loosely based on director Rob Reiner. Harry has a somewhat depressed air, as did the director, but when Crystal joined the production, he made the Harry character much funnier. Some of the inspiration for the premise of the film came from Reiner's return to single life after divorcing comedienne and filmmaker Penny Marshall. Nora Ephron, the scriptwriter, is very much like the character Sally, who is a very cheerful and optimistic person. When Reiner saw Ephron's extremely picky eating habits, he asked Ephron about her eating habits. She said, "I just like it the way I like it," a line that was later added to the movie.

The most memorable scene in "When Harry Met Sally..." is the infamous deli scene. The two title characters are lunching in Katz's Delicatessen in Manhattan and debating a man's ability to recognize if a woman is faking an orgasm during sex. Sally says that men can't tell the difference, and she demonstrates by faking an orgasm during lunch to prove her point. The idea was Ryan's; director Reiner loved it and immediately put it into the script. Ryan also suggested that the scene take place in a restaurant. Katz's Delicatessen, where the scene was filmed, is an actual restaurant in New York City. There is a plaque at the table where the title characters sat that reads: "Where Harry met Sally... hope you have what she had!" The deli, founded in 1888, is located at 205 Houston Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The deli also appeared in several more films, including "Enchanted" and "Across the Universe."

After Sally returns to her meal, a nearby patron, played by Reiner's mother, Estelle Reiner, orders her food with the quip to the waitress, "I'll have what she's having." This line is probably the most well-known quote in the movie. The memorable quote ranked thirty-third on the American Film Institute's top 100 list of American movie quotes. It is the only quote on the list that was delivered by a non-professional actor, and it is also the only quote on the list that was the only film dialogue ever spoken by the actor. The line itself was suggested by the ever-funny Crystal.

The memorable title of the movie was the subject of ongoing discussions between scriptwriter Ephron, producer Andrew Scheinman, and director Reiner. Before settling on "When Harry Met Sally...," several alternate titles were proposed, including "It Had to Be You," "Words of Love," "Just Friends," "Boy Meets Girl," "How They Met," "Playing Melancholy Baby," and "Harry, This Is Sally." Ephron has said that although she is very happy with the way the film turned out, the title is the one thing that she would have fixed if given the opportunity.

In 2004, the film was adapted into a stage production. Alyson Hannigan, known for her roles in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "American Pie," played Sally, and Luke Perry, known for his role in "Beverly Hills, 90210," played the role of Harry. The show first opened on London's West End and was a hit with audiences, although it did not get very good reviews from critics. Molly Ringwald, who was originally offered the role of Sally for the film but turned it down due to an overbooked schedule, later accepted the role of Sally.

Certainly a classic, "When Harry Met Sally..." has been making audiences think about the intricacies of male-female friendships for over twenty years. Hopefully, some of the above trivia will make the movie even more interesting the next time you watch the feel-good romantic comedy.