Neil Simon, the respected and much-honored Tony-award winning playwright, has died at the age of 91.
Simon was the recipient of four Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the Kennedy Center honors (1995), four Writers Guild of America Awards and an American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement honor. And it won Simon another Tony for best play in 1985.
Longtime friend Bill Evans announced his death early Sunday in a NY hospital of complications from pneumonia. "For nearly half a century, his comedies have offered light at the end of whatever dark tunnel America has found itself in", John Lahr wrote for The New Yorker in 2010.
"It was my great good fortune that my very first Broadway play was written by Neil Simon". After running The Phil Silvers Show through the late '50s, Simon began writing for the stage.
"Neil has the ability to write characters, even the leading characters that we're supposed to root for, that are absolutely flawed". As the critic Walter Kerr, a Simon champion, once famously wrote of a lesser effort (the 1966 Star-Spangled Girl), "Neil Simon didn't have an idea for a play this year, but he wrote it anyway". There, he worked for the Army newspaper as a sports editor.
Simon soon returned to NY and began working in the mailroom of Warner Brothers' Manhattan office.
A member of the famed "Your Show of Shows" writing staff for Sid Caesar, Simon was an entertainment mainstay for more than six decades. I didn't realize until someone said after the first reading that the play was really a love letter to my mother!
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"Some say he's the most successful playwright since Shakespeare", Barefoot star Robert Redford once said.
In 1981, Smon would adapt his stage play The Gingerbread Lady into the movie Only When I Laugh, which was nominated for three Oscars. The show was rebooted in 2015 on CBS starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.
"It was wonderful to be in his life and for him to be in my life", he said, calling Simon a major figure in American culture.
"In the '70s he turned out "The Prisoner of Second Avenue", "The Sunshine Boys" and "California Suite" while his '80s works included "Brighton Beach Memoirs", Biloxi Blues", "Broadway Bound" and "Rumors".
Simon had a rare stumble in the fall of 2009, when a Broadway revival of his "Brighton Beach Memoirs" closed abruptly after only nine performances because of poor ticket sales.
In 2012, Northlight meant to stage a high-profile revival of "The Odd Couple" with Tim Kazurinsky and George Wendt; in the end, the actor Marc Grapey, who had understudied Lane and Broderick on Broadway in a revival of the same show, went on for the ailing Wendt. And Lost in Yonkers hit screens in 1993 just two years after the play came out. He is survived by wife Elaine Joyce and his three daughters from different marriages, Evans said. Neil Simon's death was reported by The Hollywood Reporter.