Neil Simon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright whose Broadway and screen hits earned him more combined Tony and Oscar nominations than any other writer, died on Sunday at a Manhattan hospital, The Washington Post reported. He was 91.
Simon died from pneumonia, his friend Bill Evans, director of media relations at the Shubert Organization production company, told the newspaper.
“I am deeply sad and hurting with the news of Neil’s passing,” said actress Marsha Mason, 76, who was married to Simon from 1973 to 1983. “He was a great talent and man, husband and father. With his passing his plays and work live on and will be enjoyed by many generations to come. I will miss him deeply and always.”
Simon’s first play to arrive on Broadway, Come Blow Your Horn, premiered in 1961. He followed it up with a string of plays including Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, They’re Playing Our Song, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Jake’s Women, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, and Lost in Yonkers.
Simon, who was born in the Bronx to a salesman and his wife, also wrote screenplays, sometimes based on his plays, such as Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity, and The Sunshine Boys.
“I’m grateful but not overwhelmed,” Simon said after winning a Tony Award in 1985. “I put more emphasis upon longevity than awards. We don’t know if Shakespeare ever won one. Did they say, ‘Best Play 1594: Taming of the Shrew?'”
“You don’t go around being funny gratuitously,” he added. “It’s a private thing — like being loving.”
Simon made a number of famous friends along the way.
Lucie Arnaz said in 1988 that Simon played a major role in her marriage to Laurence Luckinbill. “I was doing They’re Playing Our Song on Broadway, while Larry was starring in Chapter Two,” she said. “We met because both plays were written by Neil. We named our first-born Simon, for obvious reasons.”
Simon had five marriages to four women, having married actress Diane Lander in 1987, divorcing a year later, and then remarrying in 1990 before ultimately divorcing again.
He is survived by his wife, actress Elaine Joyce; daughters Ellen Simon and Nancy Simon, from his first marriage; and daughter Bryn Lander Simon, from his relationship with Diane; and three grandchildren and one great-grandson.
His brother, writer Danny Simon, died in 2005.