Neil Simon, prolific playwright and Pulitzer Prize victor, dies at 91

Neil Simon dead

The New York native, who grew up during The Great Depression, passed away from complications related to pneumonia, his longtime friend Bill Evans told ABC News.

He was also known as a king of comedy, peppering his plays with a heavy dose of witty one-liners. Many of his plays were adapted into movies and one, "The Odd Couple", became a popular TV series.

Journalist Lawrence Grobel asserted that Simon "towers like a Colossus over the American theater".

He and his older brother Danny began writing comedy skits when Simon was only 15.

Tony award-winning actor Harvey Fierstein said that Simon "could write a joke that would make you laugh, define the character, the situation, and even the world's problems".

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Among Simon's most critically acclaimed works is the trilogy of autobiographical plays, "Brighton Beach Memoirs", which won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play, "Biloxi Blues", which won the Tony Award for best play, and "Broadway Bound".

Over his lifetime, he penned more than 30 plays.

Although he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for "Lost in Yonkers" - one of innumerable accolades amassed over his career - the box-office hits, by then, were few and far between.

Screenwriter Neil Simon at the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood, California April 6, 1998.

But it was his second play, "Barefoot in the Park", that really put Simon on the map.

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Simon soon returned to NY and began working in the mailroom of Warner Brothers' Manhattan office. Besides "The Odd Couple", he wrote the screenplays for movie versions of "Barefoot in the Park", "The Sunshine Boys", "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" and more. It had barely closed when Simon's next play, "Little Me", opened on Broadway, starring Caesar in multiple roles and with choreography by Bob Fosse.

He is survived by daughters Ellen Simon, Nancy Simon, and Bryn Lander Simon, and wife Elaine Joyce Simon, whom he married in 1999.

Simon was a critical darling, dubbed the "patron saint of laughter" by Time magazine. Behavior is absolutely the most interesting thing I can write about.

"It was my great good fortune that my very first Broadway play was written by Neil Simon". "The theater has lost a brilliantly amusing, unthinkably wonderful writer and even after all this time I feel I have lost a mentor, a father figure, a deep influence in my life and work".

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