Neil Simon, the legendary comedic dramatist whose popular populist hits are " The Odd Couple," "Barefoot in the Park" and "Sweet Charity", died at 91.

The writer died of pneumonia complications early Sunday at Manhattan's New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he was surrounded by family, his longtime friend Bill Evans, director of media relations for the Shubert organization, told The Associated Press.

Neil Simon's place in the dramatic canon never rivals Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams or August Wilson, to name some icons of the 20th century that passed before him. But Simon proved to be more and more popular with the mass audience-turning the neuroses of everyday people into a crafty, accessible comedy to the next.

For a long time he was the dramatist of the American people.

Simon's Broadway productions include popular tracks such as "The Sunshine Boys" and the musicals "Theyes Playing Our Song" and "Promises, Promises".

In the 1980s, Simon witnessed a career revival and was struck with his autobiographical "Eugene Trilogy," consisting of three pieces that focus on a young man who grew up in New York City: "Brighton Beach Memoirs." , "Biloxi Blues" and "Broadway Bound". "Lost in Yonkers," another narrative about the future, earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1991.

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As his word death spread, the theater world mourned collectively. Josh Gad called Simon "one of the main influences on my life and career". Harvey Fierstein hailed him as a wordsmith, "who could write a joke that would make you laugh, define the character, the situation, and even the problems of the world."

Many of Simon's works were screened for feature films (he was a four-time Oscar nominee) and television films. He also wrote original screenplays, including the hit hit "The Goodbye Girl," which earned him a Golden Globe in 1978. In 1965 he collected the first of four Tony Awards (including a special one for contributions to the theater, in 1975) for "Odd Couple," which also became a highly successful television series in the 1970s.

Television was actually Simon's springboard. In the 1950s, he worked for "The Phil Silvers Show" and Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows", where his colleagues Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Woody Allen, three other Jewish New York-bred writers weave their sensibilities indelibly in the broader fabric of American humor.

His success in theater and film came from Simon, who collaborates with and nourishes with some of the greatest comedic actors of the last century. "Odd Couple" alone was a vehicle for interpreters of Art Carney and Walter Matthau, each featuring the fussy Felix Ungar and the sloppy Oscar Madison on Broadway, Jack Lemmon, the Matthau for the movie version in 1968, to Matthew Broderick (the With Simon & # 39; s "Brighton" and "Biloxi" he got a big boost early in his career, and Nathan Lane, stars of the recent Broadway revival, in 2005.

As for the idea that Simon is a relatively lightweight, creative piece The writer had a deserving defender in the revered theater critic and playwright Walter Kerr, who noted that "Americans always tend to underestimate writers who make them laugh," and that Simon's "best comedies are not just a lot of funny lines but numerous memorable characters and a hauntingly dramatized set of beliefs that are not without merit, Simon is indeed a de r best writer of American literary history. "

Simon Clinton, President of Bill Clinton, bestowed Simon Simon in 1995 the" Kennedy Center Honors "we take ourselves too seriously."

That was a philosophy that Simon also supported in life. "I love to live," he once said. "I have some problems with my life, but life is the best thing they have achieved so far."

Post: The Associated Press

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