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Prolific US playwright Neil Simon dead at 91

Prolific US playwright Neil Simon dead at 91

As a playwright, Simon was practically unparalleled in American theater - from his classic first hit Barefoot in the Park in 1963, to more recent plays that won him Tony Awards, including The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues, and Lost In Yonkers, to name just a few of his many, many works.

Simon died early today of complications from pneumonia while surrounded by family at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, said Bill Evans, his longtime friend and the Shubert Organization director of media relations.

Simon and Danny, whose living arrangements once inspired Neil's "The Odd Couple", then moved to television, working with such popular entertainers as Sid Caesar, Phil Silver and Jackie Gleason, and with other writers including Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.

Simon received the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for "Lost in Yonkers", which also earned him a Tony Award.

United States playwright Neil Simon, whose name was synonymous with Broadway comedy and theatre, has died in NY.

"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.

"The Odd Couple", Simon's play about two mismatched bachelors who share a NY apartment, has had a particularly remarkable life.

- Hollywood and Broadway actor Matthew Broderick, who in 1983 made his Broadway debut in Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and his movie debut in Simon's "Max Dugan Returns". The show, along with "Barefoot in the Park, "Sweet Charity", and "The Star-Spangled Girl", all ran on Broadway simultaneously in 1967".

"I know that I have reached the pinnacle of rewards", he said. "Laughter on the 23rd Floor".

Simon cemented that success two years later with The Odd Couple, a comedy about bickering roommates: Oscar, a gruff, slovenly sportswriter, and Felix, a neat, fussy photographer. Critically well-received, the 1963 comedy, directed by Mike Nichols, concerned the tribulations of a pair of newlyweds, played by Elizabeth Ashley and Robert Redford, who lived on the top floor of a NY brownstone. And in the theater, the trilogy, like so much of Simon's work, revealed itself as a singular gallery of wacky characters, inextricably bound together by love. Eventually both a film and a beloved ABC TV series, "The Odd Couple" also became a reliable template for half a century of derivative American comedies. He was also a Kennedy Center honoree in 1995 and won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2006.

Simon was married five times, twice to actress Diane Lander.

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