Neil Simon: Celebrated US playwright dies aged 91

Neil Simon

Playwright Neil Simon, Creator of ‘The Odd Couple’ and ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ Dies at 91

Neil Simon - the United States playwright behind The Odd Couple - has died in hospital suffering with kidney failure at the age of 91.

Neil Simon attends the "Les Miserables" New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on December 10, 2012.

He won Tony Awards for The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues, and Lost in Yonkers and a fourth for his overall contribution to American theatre.

Principally known for his original work on Broadway and subsequently in film, Simon cut his teeth as a writer for Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, along with other comedic greats like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Selma Diamond.

According to reports, there will be a memorial service for Simon at some point on Thursday in New York City. He was raised mostly by his strong-willed mother, Mamie, and mentored by his older brother, Danny, who nicknamed his younger sibling, Doc. After serving in the military in 1945 and 1946, he began writing with his brother for radio in 1948, and then for television, a period in their lives chronicled in Simon's 1993 play, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Critically well-received, the 1963 comedy, directed by Mike Nichols, concerned the tribulations of a pair of newlyweds, played by Elizabeth Ashley and Robert Redford, who lived on the top floor of a NY brownstone. He also adapted The Odd Couple in 1968, Last of the Red Hot Lovers in 1972; The Prisoner of Second Avenue in 1975, and The Sunshine Boys in 1975, which won George Burns an Oscar.

But it was his second play, Barefoot in the Park, that really put Simon on the map. Out of his works thus far, The Odd Couple proved to be his biggest financial win, and the movie was turned into an ABC sitcom that ran from 1970 to 1975 and starred Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. It was revived again as a TV series from 2015-17, starring Matthew Perry.

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

Simon was admitted to hospital a few days ago and the pneumonia was in his lungs, Mr Evans said, adding that he gave Simon a kidney in 2004.

At the time of his death, he was married to Joyce, an actress who he Wednesday in 1999. They divorced in 1982.

A statement from his representatives provided to Fox News confirms that his wife, Elaine Joyce Simon, and two daughters, Ellen and Nancy, were by his side when he died.

"I know that I have reached the pinnacle of rewards", he said.

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