Neil Simon, one of the most popular and prolific playwrights and screenwriters of the second half of the 20th century, died Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, of complications from pneumonia, according to his publicist Bill Evans as reported by CNN. Like The Odd Couple, that award-winning show would go on to also become a Hollywood film.
For seven months in 1967, he had four productions running at the same time on Broadway: "Barefoot in the Park", "The Odd Couple", "Sweet Charity" and "The Star-Spangled Girl".
He and his older brother Danny began writing comedy skits when Simon was only 15. Simon later wrote for "Sgt. Bilko" and "The Garry Moore Show".
"I am most alive and most fulfilled sitting alone in a room, hoping that those words forming on the paper in the Smith-Corona will be the first flawless play ever written in a single draft", Simon wrote in the introduction to one of the many anthologies of his plays.
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Simon, who was born in the Bronx in NY, was the author of critically acclaimed and commercial hits such as Barefoot in... Like Brighton Beach, it starred Matthew Broderick as Eugene, Simon's alter ego. Quinn Cummings, the child star of "The Goodbye Girl" and now a writer herself, said simply, "No one ever looks funnier than when Neil Simon's words are coming out of their mouths".
Simon soon returned to NY and began working in the mailroom of Warner Brothers' Manhattan office. Comedy Lost In Yonkers bagged the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It had barely closed when Simon's next play, "Little Me", opened on Broadway, starring Caesar in multiple roles and with choreography by Bob Fosse. Besides "The Odd Couple", he wrote the screenplays for movie versions of "Barefoot in the Park", "The Sunshine Boys", "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" and more. Simon's third wife, Diane Lander, would also become his fourth when they married a second time following a divorce. His wife, Elaine Joyce Simon, was at his bedside with his daughters Ellen Simon and Nancy Simon.
Tributes poured out from those in the comedy field in response to the news of Simon's death at the age of 91. "I have no reason to write another play except that I am alive and I like to do it".
Such was his wealth that he produced many of his plays and in 1983 he was given the rare accolade of having a NY stage, the Neil Simon Theatre, named in his honor. "The theater has lost a brilliantly amusing, unthinkably wonderful writer and even after all this time I feel I have lost a mentor, a father figure, a deep influence in my life and work".