Although we will never know how much polishing Ephron might have done on the piece if she had not died a year ago, the comedy drama about the life of the late New York City journalist Mike McAlary is a fitting end to a remarkable career.
Ephron began her writing life as a reporter at the New York Post in the 1960s — years before McAlary became a star there — but she was able to use the material to craft her own love letter to a quickly vanishing era of urban newspaper people.
The Internet is packed with fabulous writing and reporting, but it is doubtful that any blogger will ever have the impact on a city that writers like McAlary and his idol Jimmy Breslin had on New York.
There is nothing comparable today to the down-to-earth, news-breaking columns that were read by a good proportion of the population in big cities during the 20th century. When I was a kid in the 1960s, I was in awe of Philadelphia newspaper columnists everyone seemed to read, like Joe McGinniss and Rose DeWolf (years later, when I saw the long-retired DeWolf at the next table in a Chinese restaurant, for me it was like dining near a favorite movie star).
Ephron saw the bluster (and borderline corruption) in men like McAlary — parts of “Lucky Guy” are devoted to stories he got wrong — but the play also reinforces her belief as a young woman that “the only thing worth being (is) a journalist.”
Tom Hanks deserves major kudos for lending his star power to a large scale production — he shares the stage with more than a dozen other actors — that might not have been possible without his presence. He’s a movie star who doesn’t need to spend several months on Broadway doing eight shows a week, but he looks right at home on a stage, and what a wonderful thing to do for his late friend and collaborator.