Playwright And Screenwriter Neil Simon Dies, Aged 91

Neil Simon

by James White |
Published on

Neil Simon, the prodigious, insightful and talented writer behind a variety of plays, movies and TV scripts, has died. He was 91.

Marvin Neil Simon was born in the Bronx, New York, on 4 July 1927 He had one brother, Danny Simon, eight years his senior. He grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan and graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School. Simon studied at NYU and the University of Denver while serving in the US Army Air Force Reserve.

Simon began his writing career working with his brother, providing scripts for radio and TV shows, scoring an early job with Sid Caesar's legendary series Your Show Of Shows, which also launched the careers of Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and others. Moving from there to Caesar's Hour, Simon also write more than a dozen episodes of Sgt. Bilko for Phil Silvers.

Looking to get into writing for the stage, Simon launched on Broadway with Come Blow Your Horn and Little Me, which starred Caesar. Two of his biggest stage hits – and later movies – followed, with Barefoot In The Park in 1963 and 1965's The Odd Couple.

Other stage work included Plaza Suite, The Sunshine Boys, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound. During the run of Memoirs in 1983, the Alvin West Theatre on 52nd street was renamed for Simon.

And in addition to his Broadway success, Simon was the writer of more than 25 films, some adapted from his plays, other original works, including The Out-Of-Towners, The Heartbreak Kid and Seems like Old Times.

The winner of a Pulitzer and four Tony Awards, Simon wrote two memoirs and became a Kennedy Centre Honoree in 1995. He's survived by his wife, Elaine Joyce Simon, three daughters, three grandchildren and one great-grandson.

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