Neil Simon, Legendary Playwright and Odd Couple Creator, Dead at 91


Legendary playwright Neil Simon has died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 91, the Associated Press reports.

During his storied career, Simon won four Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, four Writers Guild of America Awards and a lifetime achievement honor from the American Comedy Awards. He was also the recipient of a Kennedy Center honor in 1995, and won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2006.

Simon is perhaps best known to TV audiences for developing the Odd Couple franchise. What began as a 1965 Broadway play was eventually adapted into a 1968 feature film starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Two years later, Garry Marshall helped develop the property as a half-hour sitcom starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. Subsequent short-lived reboots included an animated series (1975’s The Oddball Couple) and an African-American version (1982’s The New Odd Couple). The concept was last rebooted by CBS in 2015 with Thomas Lennon and Matthew Perry playing Felix and Oscar; that incarnation ran for three seasons.

Many of Simon’s plays and films were reimagined as TV-movies, including The Sunshine Boys and Broadway Bound. The latter, which was adapted in 1992 and starred Corey Parker and Jonathan Silverman, amassed five Emmy nods (including for best writing), with costar Hume Cronyn grabbing gold for supporting actor. A 2001 adaptation of the 1993 play Laughter on the 23rd Floor earned an Emmy nod for Outstanding TV-Movie. The Goodbye Girl, which was first adapted for the big screen in 1977, was eventually remade as a 2004 TV-movie for TNT starring Patricia Heaton and Jeff Daniels.

Before writing for the stage, Simon worked in television. His credits include 1950s classics Caesar’s Hour (where he was part of two Emmy-nominated staffs), Your Show of Shows and The Phil Silvers Show.