Vale: Neil Simon
Legendary US playwright, best known for creating The Odd Couple, has died.
Legendary US playwright Neil Simon, best known for creating The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park and Sweet Charity has died aged 91.
He died on Sunday of complications from pneumonia in a Manhattan hospital, a spokesperson said.
Simon was a titan of Broadway comedy. His stage successes included The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Sunshine Boys, Chapter Two, Sweet Charity and Promises Promises, but there were other plays and musicals, too, more than 30 in all.
For seven months in 1967, Simon had four productions running at the same time on Broadway: Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity, and The Star-Spangled Girl.
Simon attended New York University and the University of Colorado. After serving in the military in 1945-46, he began writing with his brother for radio in 1948 and then, for television, a period in their lives chronicled in Simon’s 1993 play, Laughter on the 23rd Floor.
The brothers wrote for such classic 1950s television series as Your Show of Shows, 90 minutes of live, original comedy starring Caesar and Imogene Coca, and later for The Phil Silvers Show, in which the popular comedian portrayed the conniving Army Sgt. Ernie Bilko.
Yet Simon grew dissatisfied with television writing and the network restrictions that accompanied it.
Later he created The Odd Couple, a comedy about bickering roommates: Oscar, a gruff, slovenly sportswriter, and Felix, a neat, fussy photographer. Walter Matthau, as Oscar, and Art Carney, as Felix, starred on Broadway, with Matthau and Jack Lemmon playing the roles in a successful movie version. Jack Klugman and Tony Randall appeared in the TV series, which ran from 1970-1975. A female stage version was done on Broadway in 1985 with Rita Moreno as Olive (Oscar) and Sally Struthers as Florence (Felix). It was revived again as a TV series from 2015-17, starring Matthew Perry.
Most of his plays became movies and telemovies including The Sunshine Boys, London Suite, Plaza Suite and Broadway Bound.
Simon was the recipient of four Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the Kennedy Center honours (1995), four Writers Guild of America Awards, an American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement honour and, in 1983, he even had a Broadway theatre named after him when the Alvin was rechristened the Neil Simon Theatre.
“I suspect I shall keep on writing in a vain search for that perfect play. I hope I will keep my equilibrium and sense of humour when I’m told I haven’t achieved it,” Simon once said about his voluminous output of work. “At any rate, the trip has been wonderful. As George and Ira Gershwin said, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me.'”