Neil Simon

Neil SimonMarvin Neil Simon was born in the Bronx on July 4, 1927, and grew up in Washington Heights at the northern tip of Manhattan. He attended New York University briefly (1944-45) and the University of Denver (1945-46) before joining the United States Army where he began his writing career working for the Army camp newspaper.

After being discharged from the army, Simon returned to New York and took a job as a mailroom clerk for Warner Brother's East Coast office. He and his brother Danny began writing comedy revues and eventually found their way into radio, then television where they toiled alongside the likes of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Larry Gelbart writing for The Phil Silvers Show and Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. Simon received several Emmy Award nominations for his television writing, then moved on to the stage where he quickly established himself as America's most successful commercial playwright by creating an unparalleled string of Broadway hits beginning with Come Blow Your Horn. During the 1966-67 season, Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity and The Star Spangled Girl were all running simultaneously. During the 1970-71 season, Broadway theatregoers had their choice of Plaza Suite, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, and Promises, Promises. Still, critical acclaim came slowly for Simon. In spite of the fact that he had had more smash hits than any other American playwright, critics continued to take pleasure in dismissing him as a mere "writer of gags."

In 1973, following the death of his wife, Simon reached a low point in his career with two failures The Good Doctor (1973) and God's Favorite (1976). A move to California, however, reinvigorated him and he produced a much more successful play later that year in California Suite. After marrying actress Marsha Mason, Simon went on to write Chapter Two (1977) which was considered by many critics to be his finest play to that date. His fourth musical, They're Playing Our Song, proved fairly successful in 1979, but his next three plays (I Ought to Be in Pictures, Fools and a revised version of Little Me) all proved unsuccessful at the box office.

Then, in 1983, Simon began to win over many of his critics with the introduction of his autobiographical trilogy--Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1985) and Broadway Bound (1986)--which chronicled his stormy childhood, his brief Army time, and the beginning of his career in television. Suddenly the critics began taking him seriously. He followed up in 1991 with Lost in Yonkers for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

During the course of his career, Simon has won three Tony Awards for Best Play (The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues and Lost in Yonkers.) He has had more plays adapted to film than any other American playwright and, in addition, has written nearly a dozen original screenplays himself. He received Academy Award nominations for his screenplays The Odd Couple (1968), The Sunshine Boys (1975) and California Suite (1978). He has also been the recipient of the Antoinette Perry Award, the Writers Guild Award, the Evening Standard Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Shubert Award, the Outer Circle Award, and a 1978 Golden Globe Award for his screenplay, The Goodbye Girl.

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