The creator of an acclaimed body of work including iconic romantic hits When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle has died in New York from complications arising from leukaemia. She was 71.

Ephron was born on the Upper West Side to screenwriters Henry Ephron and Phoebe Wolkind. Her parents moved to California and once Ephron, the eldest of four sisters, had completed her schooling she returned to New York in the early 1960s to embark on a career in journalism.

She found her feet as a magazine writer and essayist and wrote non-fiction as well as the novel Heartburn, which was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.

Heartburn came out in 1983 and was inspired by Ephron’s divorce from the renowned Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein. She had previously been married to writer Dan Greenburg and is survived by her third husband, the screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi.

Ephron never won the Oscar but she was in contention several times. The first original screenplay nomination came in 1984 for Silkwood, her first collaboration with Streep. The friends reunited most recently on what will now be remembered as Ephron’s swan song, the widely admired Julie & Julia in 2009.

Ephron earned two further Academy Award nominations. In 1990 she was recognised for When Harry Met Sally, which famously featured Meg Ryan faking an orgasm in a restaurant scene.

Ryan also starred in Sleepless In Seattle, which Ephron directed from her third Oscar nominated screenplay. The pair teamed up again on the 1998 release You’ve Got Mail.

Ephron is survived by her husband and their two sons.