Writer Neil Simon 1927-2018

Mr. Neil Simon, author, sitting on windowsill at home pouring over a script of play he wrote / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna

Playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon has passed away at age 91 from renal failure. He came to prominence writing Broadway comedies, most of which have been adapted for the screen (he holds the record for number of plays adapted to film, surpassing even William Shakespeare).

After a few years as a corporal in the Air Force Reserves and working as a sports writer, Simon teamed with his brother Danny to write for radio and television. Together they wrote for Your Show of Shows and The Phil Silvers Show.

His first Broadway play, Come Blow Your Horn, premiered in 1961. It was then that he discovered his lifelong love for theater. It was followed two years later with Barefoot in the Park, and The Odd Couple came an additional two years later in 1965.

While The Odd Couple became one of his defining plays, it was not originally his idea. The play was started by Danny Simon and based on his own divorce. When he couldn’t finish it, he gave Neil the idea to complete. Neil accepted with the agreement that he would get sole writing credit. Despite that, he continued to give Danny 10% of the profits he made from that play until his death in 2005. The Odd Couple was later re-written to feature two female characters instead of the original two males, and was also adapted multiple times to film and television in the US, and in Germany as Felix und Oskar.

Simon’s career grew to include over forty plays, over twenty films. He won three Tony awards, a Golden Globe, and a Pulitzer Prize. He is survived by his wife Elaine Joyce and his three daughters.

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