Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Playwright Neil Simon, The King of Broadway Comedies and Dramas, Dies at 91, Winner of 3 Tony Awards, Pulitzer Prize


Neil Simon is dead at 91. He had suffered for years from Alzheimer’s. But here was a genius who started writing for Sid Caesar and went to become the most successful playwright ever on Broadway and the world– with the exception of Shakespeare.

Among Simon’s hit shows were everything from “Barefoot in the Park” to “The Odd Couple” to his famed trilogy of  “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (1983), “Biloxi Blues” (1985) and “Broadway Bound” (1986).

My personal favorite Simon script was for a movie, directed by Elaine May, called “The Heartbreak Kid,” from 1972.

Simon won three Tony Awards Best Play, and had more than a dozen other nominations. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1991 for “Lost in Yonkers,” the play that made Kevin Spacey a star.

Simon’s plays introduced countless stars to film, stage and television and made the careers of people like Matthew Broderick, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman (who were already stars but solidified by “The Odd Couple” on TV), Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, and so on.

He was married four times. His first wife, Joan, died in 1993. Simon married actress Marsha Mason, which became the theme for his hit play “Chapter Two.” He married again, briefly, and then married actress Elaine Joyce in 1999. He leaves three daughters.

Among his other well known hits: “The Sunshine Boys,” “Plaza Suite,” “California Suite,” “Sweet Charity,” “Promises, Promises,” and “Murder by Death.” There were seasons when Simon had one, two, or three shows running at the same time.

Simon had not been photographed in public since 2014 but he had been in decline for some time. Nevertheless he kept his sense of humor, and Elaine Joyce proved to be the perfect companion and devoted wife.

There’s a theater named for Simon on Broadway–on West 52nd St. formerly the Alvin, named in 1983 when he was still very much a contemporary and thriving playwright. No doubt the lights of Broadway will be dimmed at matinees today and at performances the next few days. Neil Simon was literally the backbone of Broadway for decades. He deserves every accolade.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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