Neil Simon

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Simon, Neil

(Marvin Neil Simon), 1927–2018, American playwright, b. the Bronx, New York City. His plays, nearly all of them popular with audiences, if not always with critics, are comedies treating recognizable aspects of modern middle-class life. Simon spent his early years in television, pioneering the situation comedy and writing jokes for some of the medium's most successful comedians. His string of Broadway plays began with Come Blow Your Horn (1961). Particularly adept at portraying the middle-aged, Simon was a master jokesmith who built up his characters through funny lines rather than plot, although he often attempted serious themes. The Gingerbread Lady (1970), for example, deals honestly with alcoholism, and his Tony Award– and Pulitzer Prize–winning autobiographical comedy Lost in Yonkers (1991) treats the anguish of parental rejection. His other plays, many of which are semiautobiographical, include Barefoot in the Park (1963), his first Broadway success, The Odd Couple (1965, Tony Award), Plaza Suite (1968), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971), The Sunshine Boys (1972), The Good Doctor (1973), God's Favorite (1974), Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1984, Tony Award), Broadway Bound (1986), Laughter on the 23d Floor (1993), and 45 Seconds from Broadway (2001), his last new Broadway play. Simon also wrote the books for several Broadway musicals, such as Sweet Charity (1966), Promises, Promises (1968), and They're Playing Our Song (1981). Many of Simon's plays have been adapted into films, often by Simon himself, and he wrote several original movies including The Heartbreak Kid (1972), Murder by Death (1976), and The Goodbye Girl (1977).


See his memoirs, Rewrites (1996) and The Play Goes On (1999); biography by R. Johnson (1985); studies by E. M. McGovern (2d ed. 1979), R. K. Johnson (1983), G. Konas, ed. (1997), H. Bloom, ed. (2002), and S. Koprince (2002).

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Simon, (Marvin) Neil

(1927–  ) playwright; born in New York City. After fulfilling his obligation to the Air Force Reserve in 1946, he took a clerical job with Warner Brothers in New York, but soon began writing comic material for radio and television personalities (1947–60). With his brother Danny Simon he wrote sketches for Broadway shows such as Catch a Star (1955) and New Faces of 1956. His first full-length comedy, Come Blow Your Horn (1961), was a success but it was The Odd Couple (1965) that launched his career as late-20th-century America's most successful writer of comedies. Year in and year out he filled theaters—and eventually the television screen and moviehouses—with his string of popular comedies and musicals (Sweet Charity, 1966; Promises, Promises, 1969); in 1966 he had four hit shows on Broadway. At the same time, he became increasingly dissatisfied at hearing himself dismissed as a gag-writer, and starting with The Gingerbread Lady (1970), he began to deal with more serious themes; with Chapter Two (1977), he became autobiographical; and with Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983) he began a series of dramas drawing on his youthful years; he was finally given serious recognition with the Pulitzer for Lost in Yonkers (1991).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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