Today is the 99th birthday of the screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond. His pairing with the film director Billy Wilder produced some of the most iconic (and my personal favorite) films of all time. His wit and choice of words made Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Walter Matthau, Tony Curtis, and many more performances brilliant. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: I.A.L. Diamond
BIRTH DATE: June 27, 1920
DEATH DATE: April 21, 1988
EDUCATION: Colombia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ungheni, Romania
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California
OSCAR Best Original Screenplay The Apartment (1960)
WGA Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement (1980)
BEST KNOWN FOR: I.A.L. Diamond was a screenwriter who worked with director Billy Wilder on films like Some Like it Hot and Irma La Douce, winning an Oscar for The Apartment.
Diamond was born Ițec (Itzek) Domnici in Ungheni, Iași County, Bessarabia, Romania, present day Moldova, was referred to as “Iz” in Hollywood, and was known to quip that his initials stood for “Interscholastic Algebra League”, a prize he had won while attending Boys’ High School in Brooklyn.
Diamond emigrated with his mother and sister, following his father to the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn in the United States at the age of 9. There he studied at the Boy’s High School, showing ability in mathematics, competing in the state Mathematics Olympiads in 1936–37, winning several medals.
Diamond completed his undergraduate studies at Columbia in 1941. There he studied journalism, publishing in the Columbia Daily Spectator under the pseudonym “I. A. L. Diamond”. He was editor of the humor magazine Jester of Columbia, a member of the Philolexian Society, and became the only person to single-handedly write four consecutive productions of the annual revue, the Varsity Show as well as a spare should they need one. As a result, upon graduation he abandoned his plans to pursue his master’s in engineering at Columbia and accepted a short-term contract in Hollywood.
A succession of limited-term contracts ensued, notably at Paramount Pictures where he worked on projects without ultimately receiving a writing credit. He then moved to Universal, where in 1944 he worked on his first credited feature script, Murder in the Blue Room. It was a year later, at Warner Brothers, that he achieved his first real success and consequent recognition with Never Say Goodbye in 1946. He worked at 20th Century Fox from 1951–55, eventually deciding to become independent.
In 1957 he began a collaborative relationship with Billy Wilder on the movie Love in the Afternoon. From there, the pair had a string of hits with Some Like It Hot; The Apartment (which won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay); One, Two, Three; Irma la Douce; the Oscar-nominated The Fortune Cookie; the sex comedy Kiss Me, Stupid; and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Diamond also had a hit with his 1969 solo adaptation of the play Cactus Flower into the movie of the same name.
In total, Diamond and Wilder wrote twelve movies together over 25 years. Some of these films feature characters engaged in never-ending but friendly squabbling, such as Joe and Jerry in Some Like it Hot and Holmes and Watson in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Diamond’s widow claims that these characters were based on her husband’s relationship with Wilder.
In 1980, Diamond and Wilder were given the Writers Guild of America’s Laurel Award for career achievement in screenwriting. Wilder had previously received the Laurel Award in 1957 for his screenwriting partnership with Charles Brackett.
Diamond died in Beverly Hills, California in 1988.