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The Prisoner of Second Avenue

The Prisoner of Second Avenue
Theatrical release poster (film)
Directed by Melvin Frank
Produced by Melvin Frank
Written by Neil Simon
Starring Jack Lemmon
Anne Bancroft
Gene Saks
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Cinematography Philip Lathrop
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • March 14, 1975 (1975-03-14) (U.S.)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English

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 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 cast featured Peter Falk and Lee Grant starring 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]

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. The action occurs during an intense summer heat wave and a prolonged garbage strike, which just exacerbates Edison's plight to no end as he and his wife Edna deal with noisy neighbors, loud sounds emanating from Manhattan streets up to their apartment and even a robbery of their apartment during broad daylight. Mel eventually suffers a nervous breakdown from the whole affair, and it is up to the loving care of his brother Harry, his sisters and Edna to bring Mel back to a firm reality.


  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", June 30, 2010
  6. ^ a b Weiler, A.H."Movie Review.The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1974). A New Neil Simon:'Prisoner of Second Avenue' Opens" The New York Times, March 15, 1975

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