Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Born in the Bronx, New York, on July 4, 1927, Marvin Neil Simon was the second of two sons in a middle-class Jewish family. His father, Irving, was a garment salesman who abandoned the family several times before the Simons’ marriage ended in divorce. Because of his parents’ domestic difficulties, Simon’s childhood was not particularly happy, but he nevertheless developed his affinity for comedy at an early age. As a schoolboy, he earned his nickname “Doc” for his ability to imitate the family doctor, and he reported in a Life magazine interview:
When I was a kid, I climbed up on a stone ledge to watch an outdoor movie of Charlie Chaplin. I laughed so hard I fell off, cut my head open and was taken to the doctor, bleeding and laughing. I was constantly being dragged out of movies for laughing too loud. Now my idea of the ultimate achievement in a comedy is to make a whole audience fall onto the floor, writhing and laughing so hard that some of them pass out.
Simon’s plays are often quite nearly that amusing, but his gift for provoking riotous laughter has ultimately been a burden, because it has prevented most critics from taking him seriously as a comic dramatist.
Simon demonstrated his ability to make people laugh even as a teenager, when he teamed with his older brother Danny to write material for stand-up...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Simon has always been able to make audiences laugh, although it has been debated whether he is more than a gag writer, a creator of situation comedies for the stage. Chapter Two, the three plays of his Brighton Beach trilogy, and Lost in Yonkers have wrested additional respect from most, though not all, critics. Audiences, on the other hand, have been markedly less critical, usually flocking to Simon plays regardless of the level of seriousness he achieves. While it is not yet appropriate to place Simon in the company of Shakespeare, Moliere, or Shaw, his is no small achievement: to have become the most commercially successful playwright in the history of theater.
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Biography (The Sixties in America)
Son of a Bronx garment salesman who abandoned the family several times, Marvin Neil Simon learned independence early. After brief duty in the Air Force Reserve, Simon joined his brother Danny writing comedy for radio and the new medium of television. In 1953, he married Joan Baim, with whom he had two daughters. Throughout the fifties, the Simon brothers wrote for increasingly prestigious shows, culminating in the classic Your Show of Shows, for which Simon won an Emmy Award in 1957. Simon won a second Emmy in 1959 for his work on the Sergeant Bilko show, confirming a reputation as one of the top writers in television.
The Broadway production in 1961 of his first full-length play, Come Blow Your Horn, was the first in a string of nine hit comedies in as many years in Simon’s most prolific decade. Each of Simon’s nine plays of the 1960’s explores different aspects of life in that decade. The first four all share a common motif of mismatched couples, a theme receiving its classical expression in Simon’s most famous work, The Odd Couple (1965). In Come Blow Your Horn, the mismatched pair are brothers, one hedonistic, the other straight-laced. Little Me (1962), though Simon’s contribution was...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Marvin Neil Simon was born in the Bronx, New York, on July 4, 1927. His father, Irving, was a salesman in Manhattan’s garment district; his mother, Mamie, worked at Gimbel’s department store. The family moved to Washington Heights in northern Manhattan when Simon was young. The family’s life was not always tranquil. Irving was an errant husband who occasionally abandoned the family altogether, leaving Mamie, a frustrated and bitter woman, alone to deal with Neil and his older brother, Danny. Eventually, the parents were divorced, and Neil went to live with relatives in Queens. From an early age, he exhibited a quick wit and an active imagination. He earned the nickname “Doc”—which stayed with him into adult life—because of his penchant for imitating the family doctor. He loved films and sometimes was asked to leave the theater for laughing too loud. In high school, Simon was sometimes ostracized as a Jew, an experience that would later inform his work. That changed, however, when he joined the baseball team and became a star center fielder. Meanwhile, he and his brother began collaborating on comedy material that they sold to stand-up comics and radio announcers. Simon was graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1944 at the age of sixteen.
He entered New York University under the U.S. Army Air Force Reserve program and was sent to basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, and then to Lowry Field, Colorado. Throughout his military career,...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
From the early 1960’s into the early twenty-first century, Neil Simon has dominated the popular theater in America. His seemingly endless string of well-made comedies has provided him with both popular recognition and tremendous wealth. He is the son of Irving Simon, a garment salesman, and Mamie Simon. As a young child, Simon remembers sitting on a stone ledge watching a Charlie Chaplin film. He laughed so hard that he fell off the ledge and had to be taken to the doctor’s office. This incident would define for Simon the true meaning of comedy: “to make a whole audience fall onto the floor.” Simon graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1943 and entered New York University as an engineering student under the U.S. Army Air Force Reserve training program. Leaving the service in 1946, Simon went to work in the mailroom of the New York office of Warner Brothers. Then, Goodman Ace, a veteran Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) comedy writer, asked Simon and his brother, Daniel Simon, to submit a comic sketch. Ace read their work and hired the pair immediately. For the next fifteen years, the Simon duo wrote for a variety of radio and television shows, including The Phil Silvers Arrow Show (1948), Tallulah Bankhead’s The Big Show (1951), Caesar’s Hour (1956-1957), and The Garry Moore Show (1959-1960).
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IntroductionFor Neil Simon, art truly does imitate life. Arguably one of the most commercially successful playwrights of the twentieth century, Simon forged a career out of turning his life into serio-comic theater. When Simon lost his beloved first wife, Joan, to cancer in the early 1970s, it inspired Chapter Two, a play about a widower trying to start his life over. Critical acclaim came Simon’s way with his highly autobiographical trilogy of plays: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound. Written in the 1980s, they follow Simon’s alter ego, Eugene Morris Jerome, as he grows up during the Depression, serves in the Army during World War II, and tries to break into writing for TV shows. Following the trilogy, Simon’s heartfelt Lost in Yonkers won the Pulitzer. That and many other honors helped cement Simon’s reputation as one of America’s favorite playwrights.
- At one point in the late 1960s, Simon had four successful plays running on Broadway at the same time: Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity, and The Star Spangled Girl.
- Simon never profited from the popular TV series The Odd Couple, which was based on his hit play. In an ill-advised business scheme, he sold all rights to the play and thus never saw any proceeds from the TV show.
- Simon helped adapt his highly acclaimed screenplay for the film The Goodbye Girl as a stage musical in the early 1990s. The show, which featured Martin Short and Bernadette Peters, was savaged by critics and closed quickly.
- Simon has a Broadway theater named after him, The Neil Simon Theatre.
- Simon’s daughter, Ellen, is also a writer. Her play Moonlight and Valentino was adapted into a 1995 film.
(Marvin) Neil Simon Criticism (Vol. 11)
(Marvin) Neil Simon Criticism (Vol. 31)
(Marvin) Neil Simon Criticism (Vol. 6)
Neil Simon Criticism
Simon was born on July 4, 1927, in the Bronx, New York. His father, Irving, worked as a garment salesman. Irving Simon's job forced him to leave his family periodically during Simon's childhood. Simon's mother, Mamie, was forced to work during these periods in such places as Gimbel's department store to support Simon and his elder brother Danny. After his parents divorced, Simon lived for a time in Forest Hills, New York, with relatives. From an early age, Simon displayed comic and writing talents, and his elder brother encouraged his efforts.
After graduating from high school in 1944, Simon attended several colleges, served in the Army, and taught himself to write comedy from books and imitating successful comics. After being discharged from the military in 1946, Simon was hired to work in the mailroom at Warner Brothers studios. Danny Simon already worked in the publicity department there. The brothers Simon were given an opportunity to audition as comedy writers, and they were immediately hired by Goodman Ace on the basis of their sample. The brothers worked as a comedy writing team for the next decade in radio and television.
Danny Simon decided to pursue a career in television directing in 1956, while Simon continued to write television comedy for several shows. He won two Emmy Awards for his television writing. But Simon felt restricted by television and began working on a play around 1959. Titled Come Blow Your Horn, Simon...
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Neil Simon (full name Marvin Neil Simon) was born on July 4, 1927, in the Bronx, New York City. He grew up there and made it the setting for nearly all of his plays. Brighton Beach Memoirs, the first in the trilogy that includes Biloxi Blues, is a semi-autobiographical rendering of his childhood.
When he was 16, Simon graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School. Shortly thereafter, he entered New York University under the U.S. Army Air Force Reserve Training Program. He eventually attained the rank of corporal. In 1945, he was sent to Colorado on active duty. While there, he attended the University of Denver.
In 1946, the same year that he was discharged from service, Simon went to work for Warner Brothers in New York, where his older brother Danny also worked. He and Danny teamed up to write comedy sketches for the radio star Goodman Ace. In the 1950s, the Simons began to work for television programs. They wrote for famous personalities such as Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, and Jackie Gleason. Collaboratively, they also wrote sketches for camp shows. Some of these sketches were later adapted as a stage play and contributed material to a stage musical.
In 1956, Danny left the Simon team to work as a television director. Neil continued to write for television for five more years. Eventually, he tired of the medium. In 1961, his first play, Come Blow Your Horn, became a hit, running on Broadway for eighty-four weeks. His...
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Simon was born on July 4, 1927, in Bronx, New York. Simon attended two universities, New York University (1944-1945) and the University of Denver (1945-1946). While attending the latter, Simon served in the United States Army Air Force Reserve (1945-1946), where he also served as the sports editor for one of the military publications. Simon's professional writing career also expanded in the 1940s when he started writing radio sketches with his brother Danny. The next decade, the writing duo moved to television where they worked with actors such as Jackie Gleason and writers such as Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. Although Danny left writing to begin directing, Simon continued writing to great acclaim. He earned two Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Awards (Emmys), one for Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows (1957) and one for The Phil Silver's Show (1959).
Simon's career moved into high gear when he and Danny wrote their first play, Come Blow Your Horn (1961). From this first collaborative effort, Simon moved into writing for the theater full time on his own. Simon became very prolific, eventually churning out one play per year at times. Some of his more notable plays include Barefoot in the Park (1964), The Odd Couple (1966), Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1970), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1972), Brighton Beach Memoirs (1984), Biloxi Blues (1986), Broadway Bound (1987), and Lost in...
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Neil Simon was born on July 4, 1927, in the Bronx, New York, the younger son of a father who sold cloth fabric to the dress manufacturers in Manhattan's garment district. At the age of fifteen Simon teamed with his older brother Danny to write comedy sketches for the annual employee party of a Brooklyn department store; their success in this endeavor convinced Simon that he wanted to be a comedy writer. He and Danny eventually wrote sketches for popular radio and television shows, but the partnership split in 1954 and Neil went on to write for television comedians like Sid Caesar, Garry Moore, Phil Silvers, Red Buttons, and Jerry Lewis.
Though successful enough to earn two Emmy Awards for television writing in 1957 and 1959, Simon found writing for television unfulfilling and in the fall of 1957 began working, in his spare time, on his first play. Come Blow Your Horn, based on his relationship with Danny and their parents, took him three years to write, and he went through twenty-two completely different versions. When the finished Come Blow Your Horn finally appeared on Broadway in 1961, however, its success launched Simon's playwriting career. His second comedy, Barefoot in the Park (1963), was based on the life he and his first wife, Joan Baim, had lived in a small apartment in New York City's Greenwich Village. With a young Robert Redford in one of the lead roles this comedy was even more successful than his first. In his third and most famous comedy, The Odd Couple, Danny served as the model for the meticulous Felix Ungar. By all standards, the play was an enormous success. By the mid-1960s Neil Simon was rich, successful, and very famous. He was so prolific with his comedy hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s that he sometimes had as many as four shows running simultaneously on Broadway.
In 1973, Joan, Simon's wife of twenty years, died of cancer. Simon subsequently married actress Marsha Mason, who would star in several productions of his work. His Chapter Two (1977) was based on Simon's complex emotional response to Joan's death and his second marriage. While still a comedy, this play represents a turning point in Simon's career, introducing more serious shadings to his palette. Many of his subsequent plays adopted this new pattern and from 1983 to 1986 a trilogy of such autobiographical plays—Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound—won Simon greater praise from critics. In the 1990s, his fourth decade of playwriting, Simon's success continued, and in 1996 he published the first half of his memoirs, Rewrites, which covers the period from his birth to the reception of Chapter Two.
Biography (Drama for Students)
Neil Simon was born on July 4, 1927, in the Bronx, New York, to Irving, a garment salesman, and Mamie Simon. He grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan, during the Great Depression. After he graduated from high school, Simon joined the army and wrote for military publications while he took classes at New York University and the University of Denver.
After his discharge in 1946, “Doc” Simon, a nickname he earned as a child from impersonating the family doctor, began a career as a comedy writer for several television shows, including The Phil Silvers Show and Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows. In 1961, when his first play, Come Blow Your Horn, appeared on Broadway, Simon turned his talents to playwriting.
Several of Simon’s plays have autobiographical elements taken from his childhood as well as his relationships with his four wives, including dancer Joan Baim, who died while they married, an event that inspired Simon’s Chapter Two, and actress Marsha Mason, who starred in several stage and film versions of his plays. Plays influenced by events in his childhood often involve coming-of-age stories, while those that reflect his marriages explore the tensions that can develop between men and women in relationships.
Simon has received Emmy Awards for his television work, the Tony Award for Best Play for The Odd Couple in 1965, for Barefoot in the Park in 1966, for Sweet Charity in 1968,...
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