Mark Hamill Remembers Playwright Neil Simon

Monday, 27 Aug, 2018

Legendary playwright Neil Simon died Sunday due to complications from pneumonia at age 91.

He won Tony Awards for plays like The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues and Lost in Yonkers.

"Barefoot in the Park", about a bickering couple inspired by his first marriage, and "The Odd Couple" that followed, were credited with capturing the zeitgeist of the 1960s.

In 2006, Simon won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which honors work that draws from the American experience.

A new Simon play nearly every theatrical season was a Broadway staple from 1960 through the mid-1990s, placing him in the ranks of America's top playwrights.

In a 1997 interview with The Washington Post, Simon noted: "I know that I have reached the pinnacle of rewards". Even if my own taste was already evolving more toward Albee, it remains to this day the funniest production of anything I've ever seen in the theater.

"My mother and father were gone when I wrote it, so I did tell about the fights and what it was like for me as a kid hearing them". He wrote musicals too (the best is Little Me, as originally guided in 1962 by Bob Fosse), and Hollywood screenplays.

Much of his work, peppered with witty one-liners, explored the everyday struggles of the middle-classes and inter-family conflict, influenced by his troubled upbringing during the Great Depression.

"The delightful aspect of Mr. Simon's talent is that he makes the predictable point unpredictably", Howard Taubman wrote for The New York Times in 1965.

In total, Simon wrote more than 30 plays and earned 17 Tony nominations with three wins.

Many of Simon's plays were adapted for movies and TV.

Josh Gad said that Simon's work, "as both a participant and audience, has defined and shaped me on my own journies and [career] trajectory".

After attending New York University and the University of Denver and serving in the US Air Force Reserve, Simon and his mentor, older brother Danny Simon, worked together in the 1940s writing comedy sketches for radio performer Goodman Ace.

Neil Simon attends the "Les Miserables" New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on December 10, 2012. His classic comedies include "The Odd Couple" and "The Sunshine Boys".

The bespectacled, mild-looking Simon - described in a New York Times magazine profile as looking like an accountant or librarian who dressed "just this side of drab" - was a relentless writer and rewriter. Simon married his fourth wife, actress Elaine Joyce, in 1999. His previous wives were named Diane Lander, Marsha Mason and Joan Baim.