Playwright Neil Simon dies at 91


United States playwright Neil Simon, who became one of Broadway's most prolific and popular playwrights as he combined humour, drama and introspection in works such as "The Odd Couple", "The Goodbye Girl" and "Lost in Yonkers", died on Sunday at the age of 91, his representatives said. He succumbed to complications from pneumonia over the weekend, passing away at a New York-Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan.

According to TMZ, Simon died early Sunday morning after having been on life support for some time; he had a failing kidney, as well as Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. His first big writing break came on Your Show of Shows in 1960, collaborating on sketches with his older brother Danny and such prolific writers in their own right that included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin and Carl Reiner. "In 1966 alone, he had four Broadway shows running simultaneously", the report continued.

Even a partial list of his works summons the comic highlights of late 20th-century American theater: "Barefoot in the Park". "The Prisoner of Second Avenue".

Later in his career he would use his own painful experiences, such as in the semi-biographical Brighton Beach Memoirs, to give his work more depth. Simon continued into the next decade with "Lost in Yonkers", "Jake's Women", "The Goodbye Girl" and "Laughter on the 23rd Floor".

And that's just for starters.

Simon's plays made him a wealthy man and many were turned into films, which made him even wealthier and earned him four Academy Award nominations.

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Its first appearance was as a 1965 Broadway play that won Tonys for Simon, star Walter Matthau and director Mike Nichols.

Paramount Pictures was so excited to obtain the movie rights in 1964 that it paid $175,000 to Simon based on a 40-word synopsis. Later on, Simon would literally adapt Chekhov to the stage (none too well), but in the original Odd Couple and here and there in his later works, he married a three-dimensional humanity to his genius for writing jokes. I have no reason to write another play except that I am alive and I like to do it'-Neil Simon. He chalked up 17 Tony nominations and four Oscar nods.

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

Simon had a rare stumble in the fall of 2009, when a Broadway revival of his "Brighton Beach Memoirs" closed abruptly after only nine performances because of poor ticket sales.

"No playwright in Broadway's long and raucous history has so dominated the boulevard as the softly astringent Simon", The New Yorker's John Lahr wrote in 2010.