Sad news yesterday of the passing of American playwright Neil Simon at the age of 91. The obituaries published online and in print are rightfully in praise of his genius and many accomplishments, particularly his more famous works such as The Odd Couple which became a hit movie in 1965. However, I’d like to make a nod to one of his perhaps lesser-known works, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, a film of which, released in 1972, remains very close to my heart. My original post about the film can be found here.
Although more famous for his many Broadway successes than the movies that I am more familiar with, I would just like to add that the one thing the modern film industry needs, over and above more CGI artists and pretty actors and actresses, is more quality screenwriters and authors. The example that Neil Simon leaves, in his body of work, is a testament of the importance of quality dramatic writing, whether it be tinged with comedy or not. All the effects spectacle and acting skill are for nothing if the spectacle is vacuous and the acting based on empty words. Great screenplays become great movies. Bad screenplays become bad movies. Its as simple as that. Billy Wilder and Stanley Kubrick didn’t spend years finessing screenplays for nothing.
Anyway, I’ll forever owe Neil Simon a debt of gratitude for The Prisoner of Second Avenue. It may not be his best work, but it struck a chord in me and always will.