The Prisoner of Second Avenue

The Prisoner of Second Avenue is an American black comedy play by Neil Simon, later made into a film released in 1975.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue
Theatrical release poster (film)
Directed byMelvin Frank
Produced byMelvin Frank
Written byNeil Simon
StarringJack Lemmon
Anne Bancroft
Gene Saks
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
CinematographyPhilip Lathrop
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • March 14, 1975 (U.S.)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States


The Prisoner of Second Avenue premiered on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on November 11, 1971 [1] and closed on September 29, 1973 after 798 performances and four previews. Produced by Saint Subber and directed by Mike Nichols, the play starred Peter Falk and Lee Grant as Mel and Edna Edison and Vincent Gardenia as Mel's brother Harry.[1][2]

The production received 1972 Tony Award nominations for Best Play, for Mike Nichols for Best Director, Play, and Vincent Gardenia for Supporting Actor, Play.[3]

Clive Barnes, in The New York Times, wrote that "it is, I think, the most honestly amusing comedy that Mr. Simon has so far given us."[1] Walter Kerr, in The New York Times wrote: "He [Simon] has made a magnificent effort to part company with the mechanical, and his over-all success stands as handsome proof that humor and honesty can be got into bed together."[4]

The play ran in the West End at the Vaudeville Theatre, produced by Old Vic Company/Old Vic Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions, opening on June 30, 2010 in previews. Directed by Terry Johnson, the cast starred Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl. This marked Ruehl's London stage debut.[5]


The film version of The Prisoner of Second Avenue stars Jack Lemmon, Anne Bancroft and Gene Saks. It was produced and directed by Melvin Frank from a screenplay by Simon. The music is by Marvin Hamlisch.[6] Sylvester Stallone appeared in a brief role as a suspected mugger of Jack Lemmon's character.

The New York Times reviewer wrote: "Mr. Simon is serious about a theme that isn't earth-shaking and he understandably cloaks its gravity with genuine chuckles that pop up mostly as radio news bulletins such as the flash that a Polish freighter has just run into the Statue of Liberty. And, with a cast whose members appreciate what they're saying and doing, the gnawing problems of 'Second Avenue' become a pleasure."[6]


The story revolves around the escalating problems of a middle-aged couple living on Second Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. Mel Edison, the main character, has just lost his job after many years and now has to cope with being unemployed at middle age during an economic recession. The action occurs during an intense summer heat wave and a prolonged garbage strike, which exacerbates Edison's plight as he and his wife Edna deal with noisy neighbors, loud sounds emanating from Manhattan streets up to their apartment, and even a broad-daylight burglary of their apartment. Mel eventually suffers a nervous breakdown and it is up to the loving care of his brother Harry, his sisters, and Edna to restore him to a firm reality.



See also


  1. ^ a b c Barnes, Clive. "Stage: Creeping Paranoia and Crawling Malaise", The New York Times, November 12, 1971, p.55
  2. ^ The Prisoner of Second Avenue Internet Broadway Database, accessed April 11, 2012
  3. ^ "Nominations for the Tony Awards Are Announced", The New York Times, April 4, 1972, p.54
  4. ^ Kerr, Walter. " 'The Prisoner of Second Avenue' Merely Complains", The New York Times, November 21, 1971, p.D1
  5. ^ Shenton, Mark. Goldblum and Ruehl Begin Performances in West End's Prisoner of Second Avenue" Archived 2010-09-04 at the Wayback Machine., June 30, 2010
  6. ^ a b Weiler, A.H.Film also marks one of the earliest appearances of Sylvester Stallone. serres=940CE3DB163BE133A25756C1A9659C946490D6CF "Movie Review.The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1974). A New Neil Simon:'Prisoner of Second Avenue' Opens" The New York Times, March 15, 1975

External links

26th Tony Awards

The 26th Annual Tony Awards was broadcast by ABC television on April 23, 1972, from The Broadway Theatre in New York City. Hosts were Henry Fonda, Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov.

29th British Academy Film Awards

The 29th British Film Awards, given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 1976, honoured the best films of 1975.

Apple Hill Playhouse

Apple Hill Playhouse is a theatre company located in Delmont, Pennsylvania. Established as a theatre space around 1956 in a pre-Civil War barn that was part of Martz Farm, the theater grew when Bill Loucks and a group from Pittsburgh Playhouse expanded the building and named it the William Penn Theater. It was renamed Apple Hill Playhouse when a trio of theatre practitioners associated with Mountain Playhouse bought the building in 1964; their first production was a one-woman show starring Totie Fields. In 1982, the theater was bought by Pat Beyer, who has served as artistic director for the theater ever since.

The theater produces a season that runs from May to October. During the summer, children's plays are produced under the moniker Johnny Appleseed Children's Theater; many of the plays are staged versions of classic stories such as Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk and The Emperor's New Clothes. Apple Hill also produces a season of adult programming, which has included contemporary plays such as Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge, Rabbit Hole, and Suite Surrender as well as plays from earlier eras such as Butterflies Are Free and The Prisoner of Second Avenue. They have also produced the courtroom drama Nuts in the Westmoreland County Courthouse. Apple Hill has also produced many musicals over the years, including Evita, Sweet Charity, and And the World Goes 'Round.

Dena Dietrich

Dena Dietrich (born December 4, 1928) is an American actress.

Born in Pittsburgh, her television credits include recurring roles on The Practice (a 1976-1977 sitcom starring Danny Thomas), The Ropers, Life with Lucy, Santa Barbara, All My Children and Philly. She made guest appearances on Emergency!, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers, Life Goes On, NYPD Blue, Murphy Brown, and The Golden Girls (as Dorothy's sister Gloria). She appeared in such films as The Wild Party (1975), Disney's The North Avenue Irregulars (1979) and the Mel Brooks film History of the World, Part I (1981). She appeared on Broadway in The Rimers of Eldritch, Here's Where I Belong, and The Prisoner of Second Avenue. Outside of film and television, Dietrich provided the voice of the grandmother narrator on the dark ride attraction Horizons at Epcot in Walt Disney World from 1983 until 1999.

Dietrich is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Mother Nature in Chiffon margarine 30-second commercials in the 1970s (1971–79). Dressed in a gown of white and adorned with a crown of daisies, Mother Nature is seen sampling what she believes is butter, straight from nature. An unseen narrator (Mason Adams) informs her "That's Chiffon Margarine, not butter." A perplexed Mother Nature replies that it would be impossible for it to be margarine, because it tastes too much like real butter; the narrator responds in delight that the margarine is indeed so close to real butter that it could fool even Mother Nature. Dietrich angrily responds "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" and commands nature to attack, such as through thunder and lightning or commanding an elephant to charge the camera. "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" eventually became Dietrich's trademark catchphrase. The melodic tagline for the ad reads: "If you think it's butter, but it's's Chiffon."

Ed Peck

Ed Peck (March 26, 1917 – September 12, 1992) was an American actor.

Peck was born in New York City.

Elizabeth Wilson

Elizabeth Welter Wilson (April 4, 1921 – May 9, 2015) was an American actress whose career spanned nearly 70 years, including memorable roles in film and television. Wilson was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2006.

Eugene O'Neill Theatre

The Eugene O'Neill Theatre is a Broadway theatre located at 230 West 49th Street in Midtown Manhattan.

Designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp, it was built for the Shuberts as part of a theatre-hotel complex named for 19th century tragedian Edwin Forrest. The Forrest Theatre opened on November 24, 1925, with the musical Mayflowers as its premiere production.

The venue was renamed the Coronet Theatre in 1945, with renovations by architects Walker & Gillette. In 1959 it was rechristened the O'Neill in honor of the American playwright by then-owner Lester Osterman. It later was purchased by playwright Neil Simon, who sold it to Jujamcyn Theaters in 1982.

Fiona Gillies

Fiona Gillies (born 19 June 1966) is a British actress who has appeared on television and the stage.

She first appeared in the 1988 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles as Beryl Stapleton. A year later she appeared in the mini-series Mother Love.

Her first major television role was perhaps Steven Moffat's sitcom Joking Apart, where she played Becky. She has also appeared as Clare Shearer in Peak Practice, as Philippa Kinross in Casualty and The Jury. She played Lady Florence Craye in the third series of Jeeves and Wooster.

She has had many guest roles, including appearances in Powers, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, Holby City, PhoneShop, Waking the Dead and Coronation Street.She has also performed for the RSC in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Beaux Strategem, The Comedy of Errors and Hamlet. She appeared in the West End productions of The Prisoner of Second Avenue with Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl as well as Trevor Nunn's Production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are DeadIn 2011 she co-produced the feature film City Slacker, written by her husband, Michael Müller. In the film, Gillies plays Amanda, a high-powered businesswoman who suddenly needs to conceive a baby when her frozen eggs are destroyed.Gillies also produced The Beat Beneath My Feet, about a former rock God, played by Luke Perry, who is discovered living in a flat in South London. The film also stars Nicholas Galitzine. Production was completed in 2014Gillies produced Some Sweet Oblivious Antidote, a short film starring Lenny Henry, Colin Salmon, Wunmi Mosaku and Sylvestra Le Touzel. The film was nominated for Best Family Film at the Sydney Indie Film Festival.

Florence Stanley

Florence Stanley (July 1, 1924 – October 3, 2003) was an American actress of stage, film, and television.

Gene Saks

Gene Saks (November 8, 1921 – March 28, 2015) was an American stage, film director, and actor. An inductee of the American Theater Hall of Fame, his acting career beginning with a debut on Broadway in 1949. As a director, he was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning three for his direction of I Love My Wife, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. He also directed a number of films during his career. He was married to Bea Arthur from 1950 until 1980, and subsequently to Keren Saks, from 1980 to his death in 2015.

Gina Hecht

Gina Hecht (; born December 6, 1953) is an American actress. She was born in Houston, Texas, the daughter of stage actress Pauline Hecht, and decided to embark on a career as an actress at the age of ten. After high school she earned a degree from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Her big break came in 1979 when she was hired for the role of Jeanie DaVinci on the successful TV series Mork & Mindy. Her first film role was in the 1982 Ron Howard movie Night Shift, alongside Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton.In addition to a career on TV and in films, she has also worked the stage. In 2011, she appeared in Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue alongside Jason Alexander. In 1988, she was married to writer and actor Brian Herskowitz. She has a sister, Esther, and a brother, Harold.

Harry Goz

Harry Goz (June 23, 1932 – September 6, 2003) was an American musical theater actor and voice actor.

Herschel Savage

Herschel Savage (born Herschel Cohen on November 25, 1952) is an American former pornographic actor, director and stage actor who has appeared in over 1,000 adult films. In 2002, AVN ranked him 46th on their list of The Top 50 Porn Stars of All Time. He was also inducted into the AVN and XRCO Halls of Fame.

Ivor Francis

Ivor Francis (October 26, 1918 – October 22, 1986) was a Canadian-American character actor and acting teacher. He is the father of television soap opera actress Genie Francis.

Marsha Mason

Marsha Mason (born April 3, 1942) is an American actress and director. She was nominated four times for the Academy Award for Best Actress; for her performances in Cinderella Liberty (1973), The Goodbye Girl (1977), Chapter Two (1979), and Only When I Laugh (1981). The first two films also won her Golden Globe Awards. She was married for ten years (1973–83) to the playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon, who was the writer of three of her four Oscar-nominated roles.

Mason's film debut was in the 1966 film Hot Rod Hullabaloo. Her other films include Blume in Love (1973), The Cheap Detective (1978), Max Dugan Returns (1983) Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Stella (1990) and Drop Dead Fred (1991). On television, she appeared in the soap opera Love of Life (1971–72) and received an Emmy Award nomination for her recurring role on the sitcom Frasier (1997–98).

She has also had an extensive career on stage, making her Broadway debut as a replacement in the comedy Cactus Flower in 1968. She starred in a 1999 revival of The Prisoner of Second Avenue in London, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album for the 2000 recording. In 2006, she starred in the American premiere production of Hecuba at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Her other Broadway credits include The Night of the Iguana (1996), Steel Magnolias (2005), and Impressionism (2009).

Mason guest-starred in Madam Secretary (2015–16) and The Good Wife (2016), and has had recurring roles on the ABC sitcom The Middle from 2010-2017 and the Netflix series Grace and Frankie since 2016.

Maxine Stuart

Maxine Stuart (June 28, 1918 – June 6, 2013) was an American actress.

Stuart was born in Deal, New Jersey as Maxine Shlivek, and raised in Manhattan and Lawrence, Nassau County, New York.Stuart was a life member of The Actors Studio. Her Broadway credits include At War With the Army (1949), A Goose for the Gander (1945), Nine Girls (1943), Ring Two (1939), Sunup to Sundown (1938), and Western Waters (1937).On television, she portrayed B.J. Clawson in Slattery's People,:980 Amanda Earp in The Rousters,:912 Ruth Burton in Room for One More,:908-909 Steve's grandmother in The Pursuit of Happiness,:865 Maureen in Norby,:771 Mrs. Jackson in Margie,:655 and Lenore in Hail to the Chief.She also appeared in numerous other television series, including The Donna Reed Show, The Asphalt Jungle, Stoney Burke, Mr. Novak, The Wonder Years, Chicago Hope, Judging Amy NYPD Blue, The Twilight Zone, and Trapper John, MD, as well as the daytime dramas The Edge of Night, and The Young and the Restless.She appeared in TV movies such as Goodbye, Raggedy Ann (1971) and The Suicide Club (1974). She appeared in feature films such as The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975), Private Benjamin (1980), Coast to Coast (1980), and Time Share (2000).

Saint Subber

Arnold Saint-Subber (February 18, 1918 – April 19, 1994), usually known as Saint Subber, was an American theatrical producer.

That Within Blood Ill-Tempered

That Within Blood Ill-Tempered is the second studio album by hardcore punk band Shai Hulud. It was released on May 20, 2003, through Revelation Records on CD and 300 pressings on LP format. A picture disc was released through Matt Fox's At Dawn We Wage War (former Ides of March) Records on March 30, 2004, with 1100 pressings. The album title was confirmed on November 12, 2000, and the recording and mixing was finished in May 2002, but due to artwork disagreements, the record was not released until a year later. This record is the only full-length album released with Geert van der Velde on vocals.

The intro from "Two And Twenty Misfortunes" is taken from the 1975 film The Prisoner of Second Avenue.

The intro from "This Song: For The True And Passionate Lovers of Music" is taken from the 1960 film Spartacus.

The album reached position #39 on the Billboard Independent Album chart.

Tresa Hughes

Tresa Hughes (September 17, 1929 - July 24, 2011) was an American stage, film, and television actress. She was nominated for Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play in 1961 for her role in The Devil's Advocate. Her film and television credits included Don Juan DeMarco, Fame, and Another World.Hughes was born in Washington D.C. and graduated in 1947 from Forest Park High School. She attended the Maryland Art Institute and Johns Hopkins and George Washington universities, graduating from Wayne State University. She made her Broadway debut in the 1959 production of The Miracle Worker as actress Anne Bancroft's understudy in the role of Annie Sullivan. She received a Tony Award nomination during the next season in 1961 for The Devil's Advocate, an adaptation by Dore Schary of the novel of the same name by Morris West, but did not win.Hughes enjoyed a Broadway career which spanned more than thirty years. Her Broadway credits included Dear Me, The Sky is Falling in 1963, The Advocate in 1963, The Last Analysis in 1964, Spofford in 1967, The Man in the Glass Booth in 1968, Beggar on Horseback in 1970, The Prisoner of Second Avenue in 1971, Golda in 1977, Tribute in 1978, The American Clock in 1980, Lolita in 1981, Woody Allen's The Floating Light Bulb in 1981, and Cafe Crown in 1989.Hughes' movie credits included roles in Coming Home in 1978, Fame in 1980, Bad Medicine in 1985, Grandma DeMarco in the 1995 film, Don Juan DeMarco, and A Fish in the Bathtub in 1999. Her television roles included NYPD Blue, Wonderland, Ed and several castings on Law & Order.

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