Facts about Neil Simon
Neil Simon Biography
The author of The Odd Couple, Neil Simon was a playwright whose Broadway plays and Hollywood movie adaptations made him one of history’s most financially successful comedy writers.
Neil Simon began his career as a TV writer for Sid Caesar and Phil Silvers in the 1950s. His debut play Come Blow Your Horn was a hit in 1961, and for the next two decades Simon was a hit-making machine, writing successful plays for Broadway and then adapting them for the Hollywood screen.
His comedies were lively middlebrow gagfests, flavored by his New York Jewish upbringing. The Odd Couple (1965), the tale of a fastidious writer who moves in with a slovenly sportswriter after his wife tosses him out, won Simon his first Tony. He also won Tonys for Biloxi Blues (1985) and Lost in Yonkers (1991) and was Oscar-nominated for the movie version of The Odd Couple (1968), The Sunshine Boys (1975), The Goodbye Girl (1977) and California Suite (1978). Simon also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for the play Lost in Yonkers.
Not always a critical darling, Neil Simon was an undisputed champion at selling tickets and delighting fans. For three decades he was a guaranteed box office name on Broadway and in Hollywood. During the 1990s his plays moved off-Broadway as a little of the shine wore off. Likewise, Hollywood’s enthusiasm for Simon’s Borscht-belt-tinged comedy waned in the 21st century.
His other work includes the movie The Heartbreak Kid (1972) and the plays Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983) and Biloxi Blues (1985, both breakout stage roles for young Matthew Broderick as Eugene Jerome, an autobiographical stand-in for Neil Simon). He also published three volumes of memoirs: Rewrites (1996), The Play Goes On (1999) and Neil Simon’s Memoirs (2017).
Neil Simon’s fellow writers for Sid Caesar included Neil’s older brother, Danny Simon, as well as Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks… Simon’s second wife was actress Marsha Mason, star of his 1977 movie The Goodbye Girl. In all, Simon was married five times to four different women: to dancer Joan Baim (from 1953 until her death from bone cancer in 1973), to Mason (from 1973 until their divorce in 1983), to Diane Lander twice (from 1987-1988 and from 1990-1998, both marriages ending in divorce) and to the actress Elaine Joyce (from 1999 until his death). He had two daughters with Baim, Ellen (born circa 1957) and Nancy (born circa 1963), and also adopted Diane Lander’s daughter Bryn.