"Everyone thinks they can write a play; you just write down what happened to you. But the art of it is drawing from all the moments of your life.""I love living. I have some problems with my life, but living is the best thing they've come up with so far.""If no one ever took risks, Michaelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.""If you can go through life without experiencing pain you probably haven't been born yet.""Money brings some happiness. But after a certain point, it just brings more money.""Nathan Lane always wanted to play Oscar. When he came in the first day, he already knew his lines. He said he'd known them since he was 18.""New York is not Mecca. It just smells like it.""Sports is the only entertainment where, no matter how many times you go back, you never know the ending.""Sudden money is going from zero to two hundred dollars a week. The rest doesn't count.""You must realize that honorary degrees are given generally to people whose SAT scores were too low to get them into schools the regular way. As a matter of fact, it was my SAT scores that led me into my present vocation in life, comedy."
Simon was born Marvin Neil Simon on July 4, 1927 in The Bronx, New York City to Mamie and Irving Simon, a garment salesman. He was their second son and he grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan in the Great Depression. His father would frequently leave the family, casting financial and emotional woes on the family. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and graduated at the age of sixteen.
He briefly attended New York University from 1944 to 1945, where he was enlisted in the Army Air Force Reserve training program. He was assigned to Lowry Air Force Base in 1945 and attended the University of Denver from 1945 to 1946. He was a sports editor for the military magazine Rev-Meter.
In 1946, he was discharged as a corporal. Two years later, he quit his job as a mailroom clerk in the Warner Brothers offices in Manhattan to write radio and television scripts with his brother Danny Simon, including a tutelage under radio humourist Goodman Ace when Ace ran a short-lived writing workshop for CBS. They wrote for the radio show The Robert Q. Lewis Show and for the television show The Phil Silvers Show.
Their revues for Camp Tamiment in Pennsylvania in the early 1950s caught the attention of Sid Caesar, who hired the duo for his popular TV comedy series Your Show of Shows. Simon later incorporated their experiences into his play Laughter on the 23rd Floor. His work won him two Emmy Award nominations and the appreciation of Phil Silvers, who hired him to write for Sergeant Bilko in 1959.
In 1961, Simon's first Broadway play, Come Blow Your Horn, opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where it ran for 678 performances. Six weeks after its closing, his second production, the musical Little Me opened to mixed reviews. Although it failed to attract a large audience, it earned Simon his first Tony Award nomination. Overall, he has garnered seventeen Tony nominations and won three. He also won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Lost In Yonkers.
In 1966 Simon had four shows running on Broadway at the same time: Sweet Charity, The Star-Spangled Girl, The Odd Couple, and Barefoot in the Park. His professional association with producer Emanuel Azenberg began with The Sunshine Boys in 1972 and continued with The Good Doctor, God's Favorite, Chapter Two, They're Playing Our Song, I Ought to Be in Pictures, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, Jake's Women, The Goodbye Girl, and Laughter on the 23rd Floor, among others.
Simon also has written screenplays for more than twenty films. These include adaptations of his own plays and original work too, including The Out-of-Towners, Murder by Death and The Goodbye Girl. He has received four Best Screenplay Academy Award nominations.
Simon has been conferred with two honoris causa degrees; a Doctor of Humane Letters from Hofstra University and a Doctor of Laws from Williams College. He is the namesake of the legitimate Broadway theater the Neil Simon Theatre, formerly the Alvin Theatre, and an honorary member of the Walnut Street Theatre's board of trustees.
Simon has been married five times, to dancer Joan Baim (1953—1973), actress Marsha Mason (1973—1981), twice to Diane Lander (1987—1988 and 1990—1998), and currently actress Elaine Joyce. He is the father of Nancy and Ellen, from his first marriage, and Bryn, Lander's daughter from a previous relationship whom he adopted.
1963: Come Blow Your Horn - Director: Bud Yorkin, screenplay by Norman Lear with Frank Sinatra and Lee J. Cobb
1966: After the Fox - Director: Vittorio DeSica with Peter Sellers and Victor Mature
1967: Barefoot in the Park - Director: Gene Saks with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda
1968: The Odd Couple - Director: Gene Saks with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau
1969: Sweet Charity - Director: Bob Fosse with Shirley MacLaine, Chita Rivera and Sammy Davis Jr.
1970: The Out-of-Towners - Director: Arthur Hiller with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis
1971: Plaza Suite - Director: Arthur Hiller with Walter Matthau, Maureen Stapleton, Barbara Harris and Lee Grant
1972: The Last of the Red Hot Lovers - Director: Gene Saks with Alan Arkin
1972: The Heartbreak Kid - Director: Elaine May with Cybill Shepard and Charles Grodin
1975: The Prisoner of Second Avenue - Director: Melvin Frank with Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft
1975: The Sunshine Boys - Director: Herbert Ross with Walter Matthau and George Burns
1976: Murder by Death - Director: Robert Moore with Truman Capote, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Maggie Smith, Elsa Lanchester and Peter Sellers
1977: The Goodbye Girl - Director: Herbert Ross with Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason
1978: The Cheap Detective - Director: Robert Moore with Peter Falk, Louise Fletcher, Stockard Channing, Madeline Kahn, John Houseman, Nicol Williamson and Eileen Brennan
1978: California Suite - Director: Herbert Ross with Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Walter Matthau, Elaine May, Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby
1978: The Good Doctor - PBS - Director: Jack O'Brien with Edward Asner, Richard Chamberlain, Bob Dishy, Gary Dontzig, Lee Grant, and Marsha Mason
1979: Chapter Two - Director: Robert Moore with James Caan and Marsha Mason
1980: Seems Like Old Times - Director: Jay Sandrich with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase
1981: Only When I Laugh - Director: Glenn Jordan with Marsha Mason, Joan Hackett, James Coco and Kristy McNichol
1982: I Ought to Be in Pictures - Director: Herbert Ross with Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret and Dinah Manoff
1983: Max Dugan Returns - Director: Herbert Ross with Matthew Broderick, Marsha Mason, Jason Robards, Kiefer Sutherland and Donald Sutherland
1984: The Lonely Guy - Director: Arthur Hiller with Steve Martin
1985: The Slugger's Wife - Director: Hal Ashby with Michael O'Keefe and Rebecca De Mornay
1986: Brighton Beach Memoirs - Director: Gene Saks with Jonathan Silverman and David Margulies
1987: Plaza Suite - Director: Robert Beatty and Kenny Solms with Carol Burnett, Richard Crenna, Dabney Coleman, and Hal Holbrook for ABC
1988: Biloxi Blues - Director: Mike Nichols with Matthew Broderick and Christopher Walken
1991: The Marrying Man - Director: Jerry Rees with Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin
1993: Lost in Yonkers - Director: Martha Coolidge with Richard Dreyfuss
1995: The Sunshine Boys - Director: John Erman with Woody Allen and Peter Falk
1996: Jake's Women - Director: Glenn Jordan with Alan Alda, Anne Archer, Lolita Davidovich, Julie Kavner, Mira Sorvino, Joyce Van Patten, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley for CBS
1996: London Suite - Director: Jay Sandrich with Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Clarkson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jonathan Silverman, Madeline Kahn, Michael Richards, Julie Hagerty, Richard Mulligan, Kristen Johnston, Jane Carr, Paxton Whitehead, and William Franklyn for NBC
1998: The Odd Couple II - Director: Howard Deutch with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau
2001: Laughter on the 23rd Floor - Director: Richard Benjamin with Nathan Lane, Mark Linn-Baker, Saul Rubinek, Dan Castellaneta, Richard Portnow, Kristi Angus, Ardon Bess, Victor Garber, Philip Craig, among many others for Showtime
2004: The Goodbye Girl with Patricia Heaton and Jeff Daniels for Turner Network Television