Playwright Neil Simon Dead at 91

Broadway legend penned "The Odd Couple," "Lost in Yonkers" over storied career.

Playwright, screenwriter, author Neil Simon photographed in 1981. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)
Playwright, screenwriter, author Neil Simon photographed in 1981. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)

The world seems a little less funny today. Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning playwright Neil Simon, whose legendary body of work includes The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park and Lost in Yonkers died Saturday night.

He was 91.

Simon, who died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City of complications from pneumonia, according to his reps, got his start in television as a writer of Your Show of Shows in the ’50s. It was writing the book for a musical starring Sid Caesar, the star of that TV show, which marked Simon’s Broadway debut.

He would never really leave. Simon wrote more than 30 plays that had great runs on the Great White Way. He even had four run simultaneously in 1966: Sweet Charity, The Star-Spangled Girl, The Odd Couple  and Barefoot in the Park.

Simon also dabbled in movie scripts: His 1977 The Goodbye Girl won an Oscar for Richard Dreyfuss and brought his then-wife Marsha Mason a nomination, too.

But Broadway was his preferred canvas, and he hit a renaissance period in the ’80s. As Variety puts it:

“Simon had won a Tony for The Odd Couple in 1965, several of his plays and musicals had been Tony nominated, and he was worth more than $10 million, but the ease of his popular appeal worked against him critically. The turnaround began with Brighton Beach Memoirs in 1983. The autobiographical drama of his adolescence brought Simon his first taste of serious acclaim. It was followed by the more comedic but equally pungent Biloxi Blues, a coming-of age-comedy about his uneventful Army days. Like Brighton Beach, it starred Matthew Broderick as Eugene, Simon’s alter ego. And it won Simon another Tony for best play in 1985. The trilogy was completed with Broadway Bound, about his early career in the theater.

“In 1991 his play Lost in Yonkers, another serio-comedy, brought him his highest accolade — a Pulitzer Prize for drama — as well as a third Tony award.”


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