I. A. L. Diamond - Writer

Writer and Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Itek Dommnici, Romania, 7 June 1920; emigrated to the United States, 1929. Education: Attended Boys High School, Brooklyn, New York; Columbia University, New York, 1938–41. Family: Married Barbara Bentley, 1945. Career: 1941–43—junior writer at Paramount; 1944—first film as writer, Murder in the Blue Room ; 1951–55—writer for 20th Century-Fox; 1955—began collaboration with Billy Wilder; 1959—began producing his own films. Awards: Writers Guild Award for Love in the Afternoon , 1957; Some Like It Hot , 1959; The Apartment , 1960 (also Academy Award and New York Film Critics Award); Writers Guild Laurel Award, 1979. Died: In Beverly Hills, California, 21 April 1988.

I. A. L. Diamond
I. A. L. Diamond

Films as Writer:


Murder in the Blue Room (Goodwins)


Never Say Goodbye (Kern); Two Guys from Milwaukee ( Royal Flush ) (Butler); Love and Learn (de Cordova)


Always Together (de Cordova)


Romance on the High Seas ( It's Magic ) (Curtiz) (additional dialogue); Two Guys from Texas ( Two Texas Knights ) (Butler)


The Girl from Jones Beach (Godfrey); It's a Great Feeling (Butler) (story)


Love Nest (Newman); Let's Make It Legal (Sale)


Monkey Business (Hawks); Something for the Birds (Wise)


That Certain Feeling (Panama and Frank)


Love in the Afternoon (Wilder)


Merry Andrew (Kidd)

Films as Writer and Co-associate Producer:


Some Like It Hot (Wilder)


The Apartment (Wilder)


One, Two, Three (Wilder)


Irma La Douce (Wilder)


Kiss Me, Stupid (Wilder)


The Fortune Cookie ( Meet Whiplash Willie ) (Wilder)


Cactus Flower (Saks) (sc only)


The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Wilder)


Avanti! (Wilder) (co-sc)


The Front Page (Wilder) (co-sc)


Fedora (Wilder)


Buddy Buddy (Wilder)


By DIAMOND: scripts (with Billy Wilder)—

Some Like It Hot , New York, 1959.

Irma La Douce , New York, 1963.

The Apartment , and The Fortune Cookie , New York, 1970.

By DIAMOND: articles—

Cinema (London), October 1969.

American Film (Washington, DC), May 1982.

Films and Filming (London), May 1982.

On DIAMOND: articles—

Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1969–70.

Show (New York), June 1970.

Focus on Film (London), Summer 1973.

Frank, Sam, in American Screenwriters , edited by Robert E. Morsberger, Stephen O. Lesser, and Randall Clark, Detroit, Michigan, 1984.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 27 April 1988.

* * *

I. A. L. Diamond's talent as a writer emerged at Columbia University, where, in 1941, his newsworthy contribution to the school's annual Varsity Show resulted in a story in the New York Times . Paramount Studios read of his success and offered him a ten-week contract as a junior writer. Diamond gave up his plans to attend Columbia School of Journalism and headed for Hollywood. The studio picked up his option, but his screenwriting efforts went unproduced. So in 1943 Diamond left Paramount, wrote one screenplay for Universal, and eventually negotiated a contract with Warner Bros. There he worked on several box-office successes, particularly the Dennis Morgan-Jack Carson vehicles ( Two Guys from Milwaukee , Two Guys from Texas , and It's a Great Feeling ), but these and Diamond's other comedy assignments were frothy diversions at best. His work at 20th Century-Fox in the early 1950s was in the same vein; the most memorable of these films is Monkey Business , a screwball-style comedy directed by Howard Hawks. During these years Diamond's work lacked distinction, his opportunities for stylistic development hindered by the collaborative nature of the studio system. He left Fox after only three films and began freelancing.

Coincident with his first notoriety, it was once again his talent at writing sketches rather than screenplays that brought Diamond his next opportunity. The writer-director Billy Wilder, impressed by the skits Diamond wrote for a Writers Guild dinner, asked him to cowrite a screenplay. Wilder had worked with several writers since his breakup with the writer-producer Charles Brackett, but had failed to find the ideal collaborator. Though their personalities were dramatically different, Diamond's withdrawn, introverted qualities proved to be the perfect balance for Wilder's extrovert nature. They not only shared a common European immigrant background, but the same dry sense of humor.

Beginning with Love in the Afternoon , their partnership spanned 25 years and a dozen films. While popular and critical reception of the pictures varied, their combined talents created some of the best and most enduring comedy/dramas of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Witty dialogue and sophisticated sexual situations marked their stories. They openly challenged the long-standing assumption that all Hollywood productions should be family oriented, and provided moviegoers with tasteful, adult entertainment. Their most satisfying pictures combined cynicism with sentiment, playing the two extremes against each other until the softer side of human nature won out. Frequently focused on illicit sex, their scenarios were also about love and the emotional vicissitudes of intimate relationships.

Innocence was sometimes ascribed to the female characters (Audrey Hepburn in Love in the Afternoon or Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot ) and sometimes to the males (Jack Lemmon in The Apartment or Joe E. Brown in Some Like It Hot ). Their most popular and complicated exposé of male/female relationships, Some Like It Hot , showed masculinity taking on a new kind of innocence when two sexually savvy musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon), disguise themselves as women to escape Chicago gangsters.

For Diamond and Wilder cynicism knew neither sexual nor age boundaries; it belonged to the middle-aged male (Gary Cooper in Love in the Afternoon and Fred MacMurray in The Apartment ), to the youthful bachelor (Curtis and Lemmon in Some Like It Hot ), and to the simple working girl (Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment and Irma La Douce ). They poked fun at modern mores ( Avanti! ), at the American Dream ( One, Two, Three ), at ambition ( Kiss Me, Stupid ), and at greed ( The Fortune Cookie ). Their repeated casting of stars such as Lemmon, MacLaine, and Walter Matthau gave an additional continuity to their work. Particularly effective was the teaming of Lemmon and Matthau in a series of films ( The Fortune Cookie , The Front Page , and Buddy Buddy ) focusing on male relationships.

During the 1970s their work lost the bite and zest of the earlier pieces, perhaps because the genuine sentiment of the team's contemporary satires was replaced by a less appealing nostalgia. Attempting to recapture the lost innocence of another time, their productions of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes , The Front Page , and Fedora lacked meaning for modern audiences.

Diamond took one significant respite from Wilder to adapt the Broadway success Cactus Flower . The material proved a perfect outlet for his urbane repartee.

—Joanne L. Yeck

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