Prolific US playwright Neil Simon dead at 91

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Simon also was a master of probing the relationships of opposites, most famously in "The Odd Couple", a beloved comedy that looked at two roommates, the schlubby Oscar Madison (Matthau in the 1968 film) and the fastidious Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon).

Simon's other honors include membership in the American Theatre Hall of Fame, the New York State Governor's Award, the Kennedy Center Honors and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. And - more than any other single playwright of his generation - he invariably did so to packed Broadway houses and movie theaters, the rooms filled with the laughter of shared American experience.

"The good mechanic knows how to take a auto apart; I love to take the human mind apart and see how it works", he told the Paris Review in 1994. There's no more money anyone can pay me that I need. First time I met him he looked at me and said, "Where the hell did they find you?" He wrote more than 40 plays that were amusing, moving and immensely popular - sometimes shifting from slapstick to melodrama with the turn of a phrase.

Simon died overnight Saturday from pneumonia complications at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, according to a statement from his public relations.

For much of his career, audiences embraced his work, which often focused on middle-class, urban life, numerous plots drawn from his own personal experience. He would later attend the University of Denver, honing his craft. He was the child of a garment salesman named Irving Simon and a mother, Mamie Simon, who worked at a department store. Simon wrote more than 30 plays.

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His wife, Elaine Joyce Simon, was at his bedside when he died, along with Simon's daughters, Ellen and Nancy.

Simon continued to write prolifically, and as his reputation grew, his plays began to become instant classics. His plays included Come Blow Your Horn, Barefoot in the Park, and, perhaps most famously, The Odd Couple.

A legend of American theater, he was responsible for such works as "The Odd Couple", "The Sunshine Boys", "Barefoot in the Park" and "Lost in Yonkers". The New Yorker credits him with "pioneering...the genre of situation comedy" on television, including The Phil Silvers Show on the small screen.

In 1983 he gained the rare accolade of having a NY stage, the Neil Simon Theatre, named in his honor. "I hope I will keep my equilibrium and sense of humour when I'm told I haven't achieved it", Simon once said about his voluminous output of work.

Simon was married five times, twice to actress Diane Lander. His first wife, Joan Baim, died of cancer in 1973, after 20 years of marriage.

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