About Marvin Neil Simon
Neil Simon (born July 4, 1927) is an American playwright and screenwriter. He has written numerous Broadway plays, including Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and The Odd Couple. He won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Lost In Yonkers. He has written the screenplays for several of his plays that were made into movies. He also has written the books for several musicals, including Sweet Charity.
Neil Simon was born on July 4, 1927 in The Bronx, New York City to Irving Simon, a garment salesman, and his wife Mamie. He was their second son and grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan during the Great Depression. His father often abandoned the family, causing financial and emotional difficulties. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and graduated at the age of sixteen.
He attended New York University briefly from 1944 to 1945, where he was enlisted in the Army Air Force Reserve training program. He was assigned to Lowry Air Force Base during 1945 and attended the University of Denver from 1945 to 1946. He was a sports editor for the military magazine Rev-Meter.
During 1946, he was discharged as a corporal. Two years later, he quit his job as a mailroom clerk in the Warner Brothers offices in Manhattan to write radio and television scripts with his brother Danny Simon, including tutelage by radio humourist Goodman Ace when Ace ran a short-lived writing workshop for CBS. They wrote for the radio series The Robert Q. Lewis Show and for the television series The Phil Silvers Show.
Their revues for Camp Tamiment in Pennsylvania during the early 1950s were noticed by Sid Caesar, who hired the duo for his popular television comedy series Your Show of Shows. Simon later incorporated some of their experiences into his play Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993). His work won him two Emmy Award nominations and the appreciation of Phil Silvers, who hired him to write for Sergeant Bilko during 1959. The first Broadway show Simon wrote was Catch a Star! (1955), collaborating on sketches with his brother, Danny.
During 1961, Simon's first Broadway play, Come Blow Your Horn, began at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where it played for 678 performances. Six weeks after its closing, his second production, the musical Little Me began to mixed reviews. Although it failed to attract a large audience, it earned Simon his first Tony Award nomination. Overall, he has garnered seventeen Tony nominations and won three. He also won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Lost In Yonkers.
During 1966 Simon had four shows playing in Broadway theaters at the same time: Sweet Charity, The Star-Spangled Girl, The Odd Couple, and Barefoot in the Park. His professional association with producer Emanuel Azenberg began with The Sunshine Boys during 1972 and continued with The Good Doctor, God's Favorite, Chapter Two, They're Playing Our Song, I Ought to Be in Pictures, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, Jake's Women, The Goodbye Girl, and Laughter on the 23rd Floor, among others.
Simon also has written screenplays for more than twenty films. These include adaptations of his own plays and also original work, including The Out-of-Towners, Murder by Death and The Goodbye Girl. He has received four Academy Award nominations for his screenplays.
Simon has been conferred with two honoris causa degrees; a Doctor of Humane Letters from Hofstra University and a Doctor of Laws from Williams College. In 1983 Simon become the only living playwright to have a New York theatre named after him. The legitimate Broadway theater the Neil Simon Theatre, formerly the Alvin Theatre, was named in his honor, and he is an honorary member of the Walnut Street Theatre's board of trustees.
Themes and genres
Although primarily recognized for his comedies, Simon has experimented with other genres and themes. In the 1970s, he wrote several serious plays consisting of darker subject matter. Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady (1970), for example, explores self-destruction through the life of an alcoholic cabaret star. Typically, Simon validates traditional social norms in his comedies, but in The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971) Simon critiques American norms. Simon continued to experiment in the early seventies with The Good Doctor (1973), a collection of sketches based on Chekov’s stories, and God’s Favorite (1974), based on the Book of Job. In 1992, Simon attempted a surreal stream-of-consciousness play, Jake’s Women. Simon’s popularity extends beyond his comedies to his autobiographical work. He wrote semi-autobiographical works, such as Chapter Two (1977), which concerns a widower’s second marriage. His most notable autobiographical works form the trilogy about his youth, which include Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1985), and Broadway Bound (1986). In addition to his more serious works, Simon has written the books for musicals such as Sweet Charity (1967), Promises, Promises (1968), They’re Playing Our Song (1978), and I Ought to Be in Pictures (1980). He also wrote a farcical play, The Female Odd Couple (1985), which is the feminine version of the original.
Simon has been married five times, to dancer Joan Baim (1953–1973), actress Marsha Mason (1973–1981), twice to Diane Lander (1987–1988 and 1990–1998), and currently actress Elaine Joyce. He is the father of Nancy and Ellen, from his first marriage, and Bryn, Lander's daughter from a previous relationship whom he adopted.
Awards and Plays