Playwright Neil Simon dies aged 91


American playwright Neil Simon has passed away at the age of 91, Just Jared can confirm.

The cause of death was complications with pneumonia, according to a statement from public relations firm DKC/O&M.

Neil Simon is survived by his daughters Ellen, Nancy and Bryn, three grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Neil was well known for so many plays and won Tony Awards for The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues, and Lost in Yonkers. Two of his biggest stage hits - and later movies - followed, with Barefoot In The Park in 1963 and 1965's The Odd Couple. He also earned four Oscar nominations, a Pulitzer Prize, the Mark Twain Prize and countless other honors.

Hollywood and Broadway actor Matthew Broderick says he owes his career to playwright Neil Simon.

Such was his wealth that he produced many of his plays and in 1983 he was given the rare accolade of having a NY stage, the Neil Simon Theatre, named in his honor.

During the run of Memoirs in 1983, the Alvin West Theatre on 52nd street was renamed for Simon. Simon also penned the books for such musicals as "Little Me", "Sweet Charity" and "They're Playing Our Song".

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After attending New York University and the University of Denver and serving in the US Air Force Reserve, Simon and his mentor, older brother Danny Simon, worked together in the 1940s writing comedy sketches for radio performer Goodman Ace.

A new Simon play nearly every theatrical season was a Broadway staple from 1960 through the mid-1990s, placing him in the ranks of America's top playwrights. He wrote his first Broadway play in 1961 with Come Blow Your Horn.

At one point he had a record four plays running simultaneously on Broadway. And Simon was beloved in Chicago, where his plays dominated the commercial theater industry in the last decades of the 20th century. "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" ran for nine months. Later on, Simon would literally adapt Chekhov to the stage (none too well), but in the original Odd Couple and here and there in his later works, he married a three-dimensional humanity to his genius for writing jokes. The trilogy was completed with Broadway Bound, about his early career in the theater.

"Simon really was our comedic Chekhov", said BJ Jones, the artistic director of Northlight Theatre, on Sunday. Simon's work was also honored with a Golden Globe and a Kennedy Center Honor.

Simon was married five times, twice to actress Diane Lander.

Many of his works are classics of 20th century American theater and Simon has been credited with playing a seminal role - along with film director Woody Allen - in re-crafting U.S. humor in the 1960s and 1970s.