American master playwright Neil Simon; 91
NEW YORK—When master playwright Neil Simon accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2006, he was visibly nervous. But his gentle humor was evident.
“It took me six years to write my first play,” he said, recalling that he found the title for “Come Blow Your Horn” from one of his daughter’s nursery rhyme books. He said it turned out to be “a so-so play” that was turned into “a so-so movie” with Frank Sinatra.
But it was successful enough that Simon considered calling his subsequent works “The Sheep’s in the Meadow” and “The Cow’s in the Corn.”
“For the first time,” he said, “I had money in the bank. Yes, sir, yes sir, three bags full!”
Simon, who died on Sunday at 91, was a meticulous joke-smith, peppering his plays, especially the early ones, with one-liners and humorous situations that critics said sometimes came at the expense of character and believability.
No matter. For much of his career, audiences embraced his work, which often focused on middle-class, urban life, many of the plots drawn from his own personal experience. His characters battled depression, alcoholism and loneliness.
Simon’s stage successes included “The Odd Couple,” “Barefoot in the Park,” the “Brighton Beach” trilogy, “The Prisoner of Second Avenue,” “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” “The Sunshine Boys,” “Plaza Suite,” “Chapter Two,” “Sweet Charity” and “Promises, Promises.” Many of his plays were adapted into movies and one, “The Odd Couple,” even became a popular television series. —AP
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