On this day: Neil Simon is born

July 4 1947: From the Bronx to Broadway

By Deborah Weitzmann, July 4, 2011

Born Marvin Neil Simon, the esteemed playwright and screenwriter, is now 84-years-old. He was born in the Bronx, New York City, in 1927 - just before the Great Depression hit the United States.

Growing up in Manhattan, Simon was the younger of two sons and his father sold cloth fabric to the dress manufacturers in Manhattan's garment district

Simons, who briefly attended both New York University and the University of Denver, joined the US Army after the Second World War. It was there that he began to pursue a career in writing through working for the Army camp newspaper Rev-Meter, as sports editor.

One of the most prolific playwrights of the modern era, Simon's Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning plays and screenplays were often windows into the events of his life and family.

His writing variously exposed the delicacy of the human psyche and made people laugh at themselves. A good deal of what he wrote was semi-autobiographical, for example his BB trilogy: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound.

And while he was not necessarily writing about Jewish subjects, much of his work was irrevocably focused on New York Jewish life, for example The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Simon's billet-doux to Gotham, which was recently revived in London.

What the JC said: Neil Simon is the Sholem Aleichem of Broadway, chronicling the frustrations and misadventures of the shtetl called Manhattan with a wry acceptance of all it entails to be Jewish and eat your hearts out because nothing goes right. But a little bit sentimental with it.

See more from the JC archives here

Last updated: 10:36am, July 4 2011