American Playwright Neil Simon Dies at 91

Neil Simon, beloved and lauded American playwright, has died at the age of 91. According to his long-time friend and publicist Bill Evans, Simon died early on August 26th, surrounded by family after being hospitalized for complications from pneumonia.

One of the most celebrated playwrights and screenwriters of the 20th century, Simon received three Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, two Emmy Awards, and a Golden Globe Award. Some of his most well known plays include The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Sweet Charity, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Bluesand Lost in YonkersHe was also the author of two memoirs, 1996’s Rewrites and 1999’s The Play Goes Onlater combined into one book titled Neil Simon’s Memoirs. In 1983, he became the only living playwright to have a Broadway theatre named after him.

Much of his work focused on middle-class, urban families, drawing on his own upbringing in the Bronx during the Great Depression. His plays and movies often brought humor to serious subjects and familial conflict. In a 1992 interview with The Paris Review, he commented, “I don’t write social and political plays because I’ve always thought the family was the microcosm of what goes on in the world.”

Many other writers, directors, actors, and others in the theatre and film industry have shared their grief over Simon’s death.

Playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein shared a moment from the first time he met Simon:

Actor and author Mayim Bialik said that Simon “defined a generation of comedy.”

Actor Josh Gad cited Simon as one of the “primary influences on [his] life and career.”

Writer Jamil Smith gave thanks for Simon’s body of work.

Actor Henry Winkler recognized Simon as “one of the most prolific playwrights in history.”

Simon was a remarkably industrious writer, creating more than 30 plays, plus several produced screenplays, many of which were based on his plays. During a Washington Post interview in 1997, he was asked what inspired him to continue writing. “I know that I have reached the pinnacle of rewards. There’s no more money anyone can pay me that I need. There are no awards they can give me that I haven’t won. I have no reason to write another play except that I am alive and I like to do it.”

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