Neil Simon, ‘Odd Couple’ and ‘Goodbye Girl’ Writer, Dies at 91

Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright was also nominated for four Academy Awards

Neil Simon
Photo: Jonathan Exley

Neil Simon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright of some of Broadway’s most successful comedies, including “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple” and “Plaza Suite,” died Saturday night due to complications from pneumonia. He was 91.

Simon died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City with his wife, Elaine Joyce, and his daughters Ellen Simon and Nancy Simon at his side, a representative said.

Simon was an unparalleled success in theater and film. He wrote more than thirty plays and musicals that opened on Broadway over four decades. Sometimes multiple Simon plays ran on Broadway simultaneously.

Among his hits were “The Goodbye Girl,” “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple,” “Sweet Charity,” “The Star Spangled Girl,” “The Sunshine Boys,” “Biloxi Blues,” “Broadway Bound” and “Lost in Yonkers.”

Born Marvin Neil Simon in the Bronx, New York, he studied at NYU and the University of Denver while serving in the U.S. Army Air Force Reserve during World War II. He began writing scripts for radio and television shows with his older brother Danny. They soon joined Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart on Sid Caesar’s iconic TV series, “Your Show of Shows.”

Simon made his playwriting debut in 1961 with “Come Blow Your Horn” and concluded 50 years later with “45 Seconds From Broadway.”

Simon also wrote more than 25 feature films — both adaptations of his plays and original screenplays. In 1979, he received a Lifetime Achievement Laurel Award from the Writers Guild of America.

In addition to his Pulitzer, he earned four Academy Award nominations, four Emmy nominations and 17 Tony nominations. He won three Tonys, plus a Special Tony Award for his extraordinary contributions to the American Theatre.

He also received four Writers Guild of America Awards, an American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement honor, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Monte Cristo Award.

He had honorary degrees from Williams College and Hofstra University, and was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995.

Simon wrote two volumes of memoirs, “Rewrites” (1996), and “The Play Goes On” (1999). They were republished in one volume in 2016 as “Neil Simon’s Memoirs.”