Today is the 95th birthday of the playwright Neil Simon. My first knowledge of him was when my high school put on the play Plaza Suite. I remember thinking it was so witty and fast-paced, that I needed to learn more about him. I read several of his play in the library and fell in love with the film adaptation of Barefoot in the Park. If you get a chance, see a stage play, if you cannot wait, watch one of his films. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Neil Simon
OCCUPATION: Screenwriter, Playwright
BIRTH DATE: July 4, 1927
EDUCATION: New York University, University of Denver
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA
DATE OF DEATH: August 26, 2018
PLACE OF DEATH: Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
REMAINS: Pound Ridge Cemetery; Pound Ridge, Westchester County, New York, USA
1954 Emmy Award for Your Show of Shows
1959 Emmy Award for The Phil Silvers Show
1965 Tony Award for Best Author – The Odd Couple
1967 Evening Standard Award – Barefoot in the Park
1968 Sam S. Shubert Award – Sweet Charity
1969 Writers Guild of America Award The Odd Couple
1970 Writers Guild of America Award The Last of the Red Hot Lovers
1971 Writers Guild of America Award The Out-of-Towners
1972 Writers Guild of America Award The Trouble With People
1972 Cue Entertainer of the Year Award
1975 Special Tony Award for contribution to theatre
1975 Writers Guild of America Award The Goodbye Girl
1978 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay – The Goodbye Girl
1979 Writers Guild of America Award Screen Laurel Award
1981 Doctor of Humane Letters from Hofstra University
1983 American Theatre Hall of Fame
1983 New York Drama Critics Circle Award – Brighton Beach Memoirs
1983 Outer Critics Circle Award – Brighton Beach Memoirs
1985 Tony Award for Best Play – Biloxi Blues
1986 New York State Governor’s Award
1989 American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement
1991 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play – Lost in Yonkers
1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama – Lost in Yonkers
1991 Tony Award for Best Play – Lost in Yonkers
1995 Kennedy Center Honoree
1996 Helmerich Award, the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust.
1996 William Inge Theatre Festival Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater
2006 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
BEST KNOWN FOR: American playwright Neil Simon has penned some of Broadway’s most memorable productions, including ‘The Odd Couple’ and ‘Lost in Yonkers.’
Marvin Neil Simon was born on July 4, 1927, in the Bronx. (Some sources state he was born in Manhattan.) He grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, where he lived with his parents, Irving and Mamie, and his older brother, Danny. His parents had a tumultuous marriage, with Irving often leaving the family for months at a time. As a result, Simon took refuge in the movies as a child, finding particular solace and delight in comedies.
After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, Simon briefly attended New York University before signing up for the Army Air Force Reserve. He was sent to Lowry Field Base in Colorado, where he served as a sports editor for its newspaper, the Rev-Meter, and took classes at the University of Denver, until his discharge in 1946.
After returning to New York, Neil Simon took a job in the Warner Brothers Manhattan office mailroom. A pivotal moment came when he and Danny created a sketch for radio producer Ace Goodman, launching their careers as a comedy-writing team. The brothers soon began writing material for stars like Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason.
In the early 1950s, Neil and Danny Simon joined the all-star writing cast of the Sid Caesar television series Your Show of Shows, which also included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner. By the middle of the decade the brothers had parted ways, but Neil Simon continued his success via the small screen; he earned Emmy Award consideration for his work with Caesar, and also wrote for The Phil Silvers Show and The Garry Moore Show.
Neil Simon began writing for the stage while still employed as a TV writer, collaborating with his brother for the short-lived musical Catch a Star! in 1955. His first solo play, Come Blow Your Horn, began a solid run on Broadway in 1961, following years of rewrites. However, it was his follow-up effort, Barefoot in the Park (1963), that established the playwright as a star in his field, a reputation that was cemented with his instant classic about mismatched roommates, the Tony Award-winning The Odd Couple (1965).
Simon’s string of Broadway successes included four plays running simultaneously during the 1966-67 season. He scored major hits with Promises, Promises (1968), a musical based on the 1960 Billy Wilder film The Apartment, and with The Sunshine Boys (1972), a tribute to the bygone art of vaudeville.
Simon has drawn extensively from his own life and upbringing in his theatrical writing. Chapter Two (1977), about a widowed writer embarking a new relationship, began its stage run four years after the death of Simon’s first wife. The playwright also mined his personal history for the “Eugene Trilogy” — Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1985) and Broadway Bound (1986) — with its New York City-born protagonist spending time in the military before teaming with his brother to write comedy.
Despite his popularity and immense success, Simon at times endured less-than-stellar reviews from critics who considered his work sentimental and mainstream. However, he finally achieved a critical breakthrough when his 1991 play, Lost in Yonkers, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, along with a Tony for Best Play.
The prolific playwright continued churning out productions, earning strong reviews for his 1995 Off-Broadway creation, London Suite. However, his later plays generally didn’t fare so well with critics, and following the short run of Rose’s Dilemma in 2003, his original work trickled to a halt.
After Come Blow Your Horn was turned into a Frank Sinatra movie in 1963, Neil Simon tried his hand at writing feature films, starting with After the Fox (1966). Several of his original screenplays drew strong praise, with The Goodbye Girl (1977) earning an Academy Award nomination.
Additionally, Simon adapted many of his plays for the big screen. The Odd Couple famously became both an Oscar-nominated film in 1968 and an acclaimed TV series in the early 1970s, and Simon also delivered successful film adaptations of Plaza Suite (1971), The Sunshine Boys (1975) and California Suite (1978), among others.
Simon has also written two memoirs: Rewrites was published in 1996, and The Play Goes On followed in 1999.
Neil Simon’s first marriage, to dancer Joan Baim, lasted 20 years and produced two daughters, Nancy and Ellen, before Joan’s death from cancer in 1973. He began a 10-year union with actress Marsha Mason that same year, and later was twice married to actress Diane Lander (1987-88, 1990-98), during which time he adopted her daughter, Bryn. His fifth and final marriage, to actress Elaine Joyce, took place in 1999.
Simon has been nominated for more than a dozen Tony Awards over the course of his career, winning three times and garnering a special Tony in 1975 for his contributions to theater. Additionally, he has been nominated for four Academy Awards, been named a Kennedy Center Honoree and earned honorary degrees from such institutions as Williams College and Hofstra University.
In 1983, the Shubert Organization changed the name of the 1920s-era Alvin Theatre to the Neil Simon Theatre, making him the first living playwright to have a Broadway venue named in his honor.
Come Blow Your Horn (1961)
Little Me (1962)
Barefoot in the Park (1963)
The Odd Couple (1965)
Sweet Charity (1966)
The Star-Spangled Girl (1966)
Plaza Suite (1968)
Promises, Promises (1968)
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969)
The Gingerbread Lady (1970)
Star Spangled Girl (1971)
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971)
The Sunshine Boys (1972)
The Good Doctor (1973)
God’s Favorite (1974)
California Suite (1976)
Chapter Two (1977)
They’re Playing Our Song (1979)
I Ought to Be in Pictures (1980)
Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983)
Biloxi Blues (1985)
Broadway Bound (1986)
Lost in Yonkers (1991)
Jake’s Women (1992)
The Goodbye Girl (1993)
Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993)
London Suite (1995)
The Dinner Party (2000)
45 Seconds from Broadway (2001)
Rose’s Dilemma (2003)
After the Fox (with Cesare Zavattini) (1966)
Barefoot in the Park (1967)
The Odd Couple (1968)
Sweet Charity (1969)
The Out-of-Towners (1970)
Plaza Suite (1971)
Star Spangled Girl (1971)
Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972)
The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975)
The Sunshine Boys (1975)
Murder by Death (1976)
The Goodbye Girl (1977)
The Cheap Detective (1978)
California Suite (1978)
Chapter Two (1979)
Seems Like Old Times (1980)
Only When I Laugh (1981)
I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982)
Max Dugan Returns (1983)
The Lonely Guy (1984) (adaptation only; screenplay by Ed. Weinberger and Stan Daniels)
The Slugger’s Wife (1985)
Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986)
Biloxi Blues (1988)
The Marrying Man (1991)
Lost in Yonkers (1993)
The Odd Couple II (1998)