Marsha Mason’s acting resume has a four-year gap, but for good reason. The actress, who was the second wife of the late Neil Simon, revealed she gave up acting to be a wife and mother just 22 days after meeting the prolific playwright.
“We were married three weeks later. It was an extraordinary connection. It was this electric chemistry. We were like giddy teenagers during rehearsals. We’d get caught kissing in the hallways of the theater.”
Mason went on to explain why the Pulitzer prize winner asked her to give up acting. At the time, Mason had acting credits on Dark Shadows, Young Dr. Kildaire, and the soap Where the Heart Is, as well as a long list of stage credits. But the talented actress put the brakes on her career to help care for Simon’s young daughters from his marriage to Joan Baim, who died just four months after Mason wed Simon.
“After we got married, he did ask me to give up acting — he said he didn’t want to be married to an actress. He had a deep fear of abandonment. And he was somewhat controlling. But it came out of a great deal of insecurity and fear. And we didn’t know each other — we needed a couple of years to get to know each other. Also, I had made a commitment to the family — his daughters Ellen and Nancy were just 9 and 15 at the time. So I said alright, I’ll try. But then, a few years later, he wrote The Goodbye Girl and I ended up starring in it, so the ‘not acting’ thing didn’t last.”
Still, Mason had fond memories of her time raising Simon’s girls.
“Early on in life I didn’t think I’d make a good mother,” Mason told People in 1985. “I thought I’d visit my craziness on a child. With Ellen and Nancy, I learned that wasn’t true.”
Mason’s IMDB page shows a string of acting credits up to 1973, the year she married Simon. After completing work on the 1973 movie Cinderella Liberty, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, Mason didn’t work again until 1977’s The Goodbye Girl. After that, all bets were off and Mason went back to work for good and on to score three more Academy Awards for her work in The Goodbye Girl, Chapter Two and Only When I Laugh.
Ten years after their whirlwind wedding, Simon asked Mason for a separation and they subsequently divorced, leaving the actress brokenhearted.
“It was a wonderful marriage, but after 10 years our personal and professional needs became different and it just became too complicated and difficult,” Mason told THR. “And Neil just changed his mind [about the marriage]. It took me a long time to get over [the divorce], but we remained friends afterward. There was always this deep affection. That never went away.”
After Neil Simon’s death last week at age 91, Marsha Mason, now 76, took to Facebook to pay tribute to her husband of 10 years.
“He was a great talent and man, husband and father,” Mason wrote of the famed playwright. “He shall be sorely missed. With his passing, his work and plays live on and will be enjoyed by many generations to come. I miss him deeply and always.”