Neil Simon, Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, dies


The reason for dying was problems with pneumonia, in keeping with his publicist, Invoice Evans. Simon died round 1 a.m. Sunday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York Metropolis.

A member of the famed “Your Present of Reveals” writing employees for Sid Caesar, Simon was an leisure mainstay for greater than six a long time. Beginning along with his first Broadway success, “Come Blow Your Horn” (1961), there was seldom a time when a Neil Simon work could not be discovered on stage or display (or, often, tv).

At one level, within the late 1960s, he had 4 reveals on Broadway directly.

Even a partial listing of his works summons the comedian highlights of late 20th-century American theater: “Barefoot within the Park.” “The Odd Couple.” “Candy Charity.” “Plaza Suite.” “The Final of the Pink Sizzling Lovers.” “The Prisoner of Second Avenue.” “Brighton Seaside Memoirs.” “Misplaced in Yonkers.” “Laughter on the 23rd Flooring.”

And that is only for starters. Simon wrote greater than 30 performs.

Add in his unique screenplays — akin to “The Out-of-Towners,” “The Heartbreak Child,” “The Goodbye Lady” and “Appears Like Outdated Occasions” — and one can get a way of Simon’s dominance.

‘The Odd Couple’

“The Odd Couple,” Simon’s play about two mismatched bachelors who share a New York residence, has had a very outstanding life.

Its first look was as a 1965 Broadway play that gained Tonys for Simon, star Walter Matthau and director Mike Nichols. Three years later, it grew to become successful movie starring Matthau and Jack Lemmon. In 1970, it was changed into a long-running tv sequence with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. There have been variations for ladies, African-People and cartoon characters, in addition to a 1998 movie sequel.

Paramount Footage was so excited to acquire the film rights in 1964 that it paid $175,000 to Simon primarily based on a 40-word synopsis.

Neil Simon with Goldie Hawn during the filming of "Seems Like Old Times," in 1980.
Simon mentioned he misjudged the work. “I believed it was a grim, darkish play about two lonely males,” he told the Paris Review in 1994, in an interview carried out by “Contained in the Actors Studio’s” James Lipton.

He obtained 16 Tony nominations and gained finest play thrice. He additionally earned 4 Oscar nominations, a Pulitzer Prize, the Mark Twain Prize and numerous different honors. There is a Broadway theater named for him; he was the one residing individual to have obtained such recognition.

“No playwright in Broadway’s lengthy and raucous historical past has so dominated the boulevard because the softly astringent Simon,” The New Yorker’s John Lahr wrote in 2010. “For nearly half a century, his comedies have provided gentle on the finish of no matter darkish tunnel America has discovered itself in.”

‘We should always have been arrested’

Marvin Neil Simon was born on the Fourth of July, 1927, in Bronx, New York. His mother and father divorced when he was younger, and he grew up in Queens and Manhattan, shuttled between family in what he remembered as an sad childhood.

He picked up his lifelong nickname, “Doc,” from his brother, Danny, for his behavior of carrying a stethoscope as a teenager and pretending to be a doctor.

Danny — eight years older — and Neil would keep shut their whole lives, till Danny’s dying in 2005. Throughout World Conflict II, the brothers wrote materials for comedians; Neil continued pursuing the craft whereas within the US Military Air Pressure Reserve and attending faculty at NYU and the College of Denver.

Screenwriter Neil Simon is pictured in 1979.

After the warfare, Danny acquired Neil a job within the Warner Brothers mailroom in New York, however the two by no means stopped writing. Neil Simon ended up quitting the mailroom job when the pair acquired jobs with a radio comedy. In 1950, Caesar employed them for his new program, “Your Present of Reveals.”

There, they joined a writing employees that is change into legend: Mel Brooks, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, generally Carl Reiner, who was employed as an actor, and later, Larry Gelbart.

“I knew once I walked into ‘Your Present of Reveals’ that this was essentially the most gifted group of writers that up till that point had ever been assembled collectively,” Simon told PBS’ “American Masters.”

It might be a loopy group, he advised the Paris Assessment: screaming and preventing and ending each other’s traces and, at the least as soon as, setting fireplace to a desk with lighter fluid.

“We should always have been arrested, all of us,” he mentioned.

Hollywood calls

“Your Present of Reveals” went off the air in 1954, however Simon continued writing for TV all through the ’50s, working for Caesar, Phil Silvers and Garry Moore. However his brother had change into a director, and Simon determined to strive one thing new: playwriting.

After 21 drafts, he accomplished his first play, “Come Blow Your Horn,” a few naive man who strikes in along with his lothario brother. He did not know what to anticipate.

“It was nearly a matter of life and dying,” he advised the Paris Assessment. “If it had failed, I might have been pressured to maneuver to California and change into a comedy author in tv.”

He needn’t have anxious. On opening night time in 1961, one audience member reportedly died laughing.
Neil Simon with Marsha Mason on the set of "Only When I Laugh" in 1981.

After a musical, “Little Me” — which earned him his first Tony nomination — Simon adopted up in 1963 with “Barefoot within the Park,” a few pair of newlyweds discovering their method in New York. Directed by Mike Nichols, it was even greater, working for nearly 4 years. Each performs had been made into motion pictures, the latter launching the movie profession of Robert Redford, who had originated his position on Broadway.

For the remainder of the ’60s, Simon’s works had been as near positive issues as Broadway might produce: “The Odd Couple,” “Candy Charity,” “Plaza Suite” and “Guarantees, Guarantees” had been all hits, with solely “The Star-Spangled Lady” falling considerably brief. His ’70s stage work was extra uneven, with such well-known works as “The Sunshine Boys” and “California Suite” combined in with lesser Simon akin to “The Gingerbread Woman” and “God’s Favourite.”

One cause is that Hollywood beckoned. Simon wrote the unique screenplays for the movies “The Heartbreak Child,” “Homicide by Demise” and “The Goodbye Lady,” in addition to some play diversifications. His second spouse, Marsha Mason, appeared in a number of of his works.

His first spouse, Joan Baim, died of most cancers in 1973.

For Simon, a play ‘just like the start of a kid’

Simon was generally underestimated, his works dismissed as joke machines. And positively he was humorous, whether or not writing for characters or talking for himself.

Requested by Playboy why he favored New York to Los Angeles, he mentioned, “When it is 100 in New York, it is 72 in Los Angeles. When it is 30 levels in New York, in Los Angeles it is nonetheless 72. Nevertheless, there are 2 million attention-grabbing individuals in New York — and 72 in Los Angeles.”

Regardless of his fondness for New York, he primarily lived in Los Angeles for the final 40 years of his life.

“I like residing,” he mentioned when describing his satisfaction along with his lot. “I’ve some issues with my life, however residing is the very best factor they’ve provide you with up to now.”

Neil Simon, center, visits the set of "The Odd Couple," with former wife, Marsha Mason, in 1974.

After which there was this basic bit from “The Odd Couple.” The sloppy Oscar Madison has had it along with his neatnik roommate, Felix Ungar, and talks with exasperation about Felix’s notes.

“‘We’re all out of corn flakes. F.U.’ Took me three hours to determine F.U. was Felix Ungar!” Oscar says.

Simon was additionally criticized as being troublesome, especially with female stars. In 2003, he dismissed Mary Tyler Moore from his play “Rose’s Dilemma” with a letter after he discovered her efficiency subpar.
However the criticism of Simon was unfair, a good friend, producer Emanuel Azenberg, told the Washington Post in 1997.

“(A play is) just like the start of a kid for him,” he mentioned. “As a result of he is written so many performs, individuals assume his typewriter sorts on automated pilot. They do not assume that he has a deep emotional dedication to every one. And he does.”

Nonetheless, Simon’s work deepened within the ’80s with a trio of semiautobiographical works: “Brighton Seaside Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Sure.” The center one earned a Tony for finest play. His 1991 work, “Misplaced in Yonkers,” gained the Pulitzer Prize.

Simon’s output began slowing because the ’90s continued, and he had much less success. Two performs — “Proposals” and “45 Seconds from Broadway” — ran for fewer than three months every.

“Even Broadway has handed Neil Simon by,” New York journal’s Jeremy Gerard wrote in 2003.

“Rose’s Dilemma” was his final play.

“You possibly can say that I’ve retired, I’ve misplaced curiosity, I’ve stopped writing. No one I ever met goes on and on till they’re lifeless,” he told St. Louis Today in 2012.
Playwrite Neil Simon arrives at the special screening of 'The Goodbye Girl' with his wife, Elaine Joyce on January 12, 2004, in New York.

Nevertheless, his legend hardly dimmed. Of his greater than 30 performs, 13 had been made into movement photos, and a handful of others had been changed into TV motion pictures. Theater firms preserve them in repertory. His identify is synonymous with comedy.

For Simon, the performs had been therapeutic.

“It is one of many predominant causes I write the performs. It is like evaluation with out going to the analyst,” he advised the Paris Assessment.

However the laughter? Even in any case his success, he by no means knew what would get laughs. However, he added, he believed the viewers might establish along with his characters, and that was what labored.

“That, roughly, is what’s humorous to me: saying one thing that is immediately identifiable to all people,” he mentioned. “Folks come as much as you after the present and say, ‘I’ve at all times thought that, however I by no means knew anybody else thought it.’ It is a shared secret between you and the viewers.”

Simon was married fives occasions — twice to the identical lady. He’s survived by his spouse, actress Elaine Joyce, and three daughters, Nancy, Ellen and Bryn. Simon additionally leaves behind three grandchildren and one great-grandson.

CNN’s Tony Marco contributed to this report.

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