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Neil Simon    

American Playwright and Screenwriter

His plays have been translated into dozens of languages from Chinese to Russian and more of his plays have been adapted to film than those of any other American playwright.

Born in the Bronx on July 4, 1927, Simon grew up in Manhattan. After leaving New York University, he wrote comic sketches for nightclubs and revues including Broadway shows Catch a Star (1955) and New Faces (1956). His first major break came when he was hired to write for comedian Sid Caesar, whose cutting-edge Your Show Of Shows, featured comedy greats such as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Larry Gilbert.

Simon is reported as having said to Caesar about Your Show of Shows, "I knew when I walked in that this was the most talented group of writers that up until that time had ever been assembled together." He was later hired to write for Phil Silvers' military sitcom You'll Never Get Rich. By the 1960s, Simon had begun to focus on writing plays for Broadway. His first hit Come Blow Your Horn (1961) was soon followed by the romantic comedy Barefoot in the Park.

By the 70s, Simon was a major player in contemporary comedy but entered a low point in his career when his wife of twenty years died in 1973. Some time later, he met and married actress Marsha Mason. His 1977 play, Chapter

Two, widely considered to be one of his finest works, depicts the grief of a newly remarried man trying to start afresh after the death of his wife.

Simon is well known for drawing on his life experiences to influence his works. Many of his plays take place in the working-class New York neighbourhoods in which he grew up, such as his autobiographical trilogy, Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1985), and Broadway Bound (1986).

Simon has also written the book for a number of musicals, as well as screenplays for several of his plays, plus almost a dozen original ones. He received Academy Award nominations for his screenplay of The Odd Couple (1968), The Sunshine Boys (1975), and California Suite (1978).

During his career, Simon has been awarded the Tony Award for Best Play three times - for The Odd Couple in 1965, for Biloxi Blues in 1985 and for Lost in Yonkers in 1991 for which he was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. These and several other of his plays ran for impressively long periods - Barefoot in the Park ran for four years.

For four decades, Neil Simon has lit up the stage with his ability to infuse humour into the trials and tribulations of everyday people's lives. "He has ability to write characters" said actor Jack Lemon of Simon, "even the leading characters that we're supposed to root for are absolutely flawed. They have foibles. They have faults. But, they are human beings. They are not all bad or all good; they are people we know."

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