Playwright Neil Simon dies aged 91

Famed American playwright Neil Simon has died at age 91.

He also starred with Nathan Lane in a revival of Simon's classic comedy, "The Odd Couple", that was one of the biggest hits of the 2005-2006 Broadway season. He also won a Tony for special achievement as well as a Pulitzer and the Mark Twain prize for humor.

- Hollywood and Broadway actor Matthew Broderick, who in 1983 made his Broadway debut in Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and his movie debut in Simon's "Max Dugan Returns".

In a 1997 interview with The Washington Post, Simon reflected on his success: "I know that I have reached the pinnacle of rewards. There's no more money anyone can pay me that I need", he said.

"My mother and father were gone when I wrote it, so I did tell about the fights and what it was like for me as a kid hearing them".

In 1961, the playwright wrote his very first play called Come Blow Your Horn, and finished his final work fifty years later, 45 Seconds From Broadway.

His plays often centered around the working or middle class, drawing extensively from his own personal experiences being raised during the Depression. It was a hit from the get-go with critics and audiences during its gestation in Washington, but Simon and Nichols kept making changes, including in the play's ending, right up until it was time to pack up and move to the Plymouth Theater in NY.

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According to Broadway World, Neil Simon "has received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer", some 17 Tony nominations with three wins.

His wife, Elaine Joyce Simon, was at his bedside when he died, along with Simon's daughters, Ellen and Nancy.

Many of Simon's best-loved plays were adapted into movies, most with screenplays written by Simon: "The Odd Couple" (1968), "Only When I Laugh" (1981, based on his play "The Gingerbread Lady"), "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1986). Simon was mostly raised by his mom and was mentored by his older brother Danny. Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote of "Biloxi Blues" (1985) that Simon "at last begins to examine himself honestly, without compromises, and as a result is his most persuasively serious effort".

A legend of American theater, he was responsible for such works as "The Odd Couple", "The Sunshine Boys", "Barefoot in the Park" and "Lost in Yonkers".

The Neil Simon Theatre in NY was named in his honor in 1983. Evans said he gave Simon a kidney in 2004.

Perhaps Simon's most infamous production was the critically panned Rose's Dilemma, which opened at off-Broadway's non-profit Manhattan Theatre Club in December 2003. His first wife, Joan Baim, died of cancer in 1973, after 20 years of marriage.

Simon was married five times, twice to actress Diane Lander.

  • Michelle Webb