On this day in 1927, Neil Simon, the author of a long list of successful Broadway plays–many of which, including The Odd Couple, became hit movies–is born in the Bronx section of New York City.
In one of his earliest jobs, in the 1950s, Simon wrote for Sid Caesar’s live comedy television program Your Show of Shows, alongside other future greats such as Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. As Simon went on to write for the stage and big screen, humor would continue to play a major role in his work. Simon’s first Broadway play, Come Blow Your Horn, opened in 1961. He went on to write over 30 plays, including Barefoot in the Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965), The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969), The Sunshine Boys (1972), Chapter Two (1977), the autobiographical trilogy of Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1985) and Broadway Bound (1986), Lost in Yonkers (1991) and The Goodbye Girl (1993).
Simon wrote the screenplay for many of his stage productions that were adapted for the big screen. In 1967, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda starred in a cinematic version of Barefoot in the Park, about a young newlywed couple in Manhattan. Redford had also appeared in the original Broadway cast. In 1968, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau starred in a film version of The Odd Couple, about the mismatched roommates Felix Ungar, a neurotic neat freak, and Oscar Madison, a slob. Matthau also played Oscar Madison in the original Broadway production. The Odd Couple later became a popular TV sitcom that aired from 1970 to 1975 and starred Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. In 1998, Lemmon and Matthau reunited for The Odd Couple II. (The pair appeared in a number of comedic films together, starting with 1966’s The Fortune Cookie and including 1993’s Grumpy Old Men and its 1995 sequel.)
Simon has received four Academy Award nominations for Best Screenplay: for The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys (1975), which starred Matthau and George Burns, The Goodbye Girl (1977), which starred Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason (whom Simon was married to from 1973 to 1981) and California Suite (1978), which featured Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, Michael Caine and Richard Pryor.