The New York Times released a tribute to Neil Simon who died on Sunday at the age of 91. The 11-minute mini-documentary included never-before-seen footage of the playwright speaking about his life and career which he told the Times not to release until after his death.
“The NYT taped a ‘Last Word’ interview with Simon — an interview that was taped on the condition that it wouldn’t be published until his death,” CNN media writer Oliver Darcy reported in his network’s media newsletter.
In the footage — a mix of Simon’s own words and a Times narration of his life — the playwright tracked the inspiration and genesis of his most famous works, beginning from his time as a comedy writer with Sid Caesar to “Lost in Yonkers,” which won him a Pulitzer Prize.
“The Last Word” credited Simon with “inventing” the “genre of urban neurosis.”
It also talked about his childhood.
“My father and mother broke up so often that after a while it was no news to me. We would have to take in boarders to help feed us. They sat at the table. My mother made dinner for them. It was really tough for me because I said ‘my father should be here,'” he said. “It was a very difficult thing to grow up with.”
Simon also talked about how the death of his first wife, Joan Baim, from cancer after a 19-year marriage affected him for the rest of his life.
“We got up early in the morning, went to the doctor’s office, he examined her, then he came back in and said, ‘It’s bad. She’s got cancer,'” he said. “Other wives are the mistake you made when you’re married to someone for 19 years that you hope you’re going to be married to for 60 years. That whole period is so dark for me.”
Simon died from complication of pneumonia and leaves behind three children as well as his fourth wife, Elaine Joyce.