Actors, playwrights and celebrities have paid tribute to Neil Simon, the American theatre's most successful and prolific playwright in the second half of the 20th century.

Simon, whose Broadway classics include such comedies as The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys, died on Sunday at age 91. Here are some of the reactions to his death:

Hollywood and Broadway actor Matthew Broderick said: "It was my great good fortune that my very first Broadway play was written by Neil Simon. He also wrote my first film. I owe him a career. The theatre has lost a brilliantly funny, unthinkably wonderful writer and even after all this time I feel I have lost a mentor, a father figure, a deep influence in my life and work."

Tony Award-winning actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, said: "He could write a joke that would make you laugh, define the character, the situation, and even the world's problems. First time I met him he looked at me and said, 'Where the hell did they find you?' What a gent."


The TV journalist Dan Rather said: "Neil Simon brought a unique eye for life to stage and screen. Through sharp characters and dialogue, he prodded us - in laughter and tears - to contend with the traits that make us human."

The actress and Simon's ex-wife Marsha Mason said: "I am deeply sad and hurting with the news of Neil's passing. He was a great talent and man, husband and father."

Randi Mayem Singer, who co-wrote the film Mrs. Doubtfire, said: "If you write comedy, if you write period, you learned something from Neil Simon. A truly great American storyteller. RIP."

- AP