I.A.L. Diamond born
Today the name I.A.L. Diamond seems hard to separate from that of Billy Wilder, the writer-director with whom he wrote 12 screenplays. But Diamond’s life began long before Wilder. Born in 1920 in Romania under the name Itek Domnici, he immigrated with his family to Brooklyn at age 9, where it soon became apparent what a smart kid he was. He would late joke that his nom-de-plume “IAL” stood for "Interscholastic Algebra League," since as a teen he won a number of gold medals at the 1937 Mathematics Olympiads. But rather than follow math, Diamond discovered writing. At Columbia, he studied journalism, but his real love went into putting on shows for the drama department. In fact, his legendary feat of being the only person to single-handedly write four consecutive productions of the annual revue not only got him a Hollywood contract, but Columbia later named an award after him––the I.A.L. Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts goes to a Columbia or Barnard alumnus of distinction. In Hollywood, Diamond had a hard time channeling his wit. Pushed and pulled inside the studio system, Diamond moved from Paramount, to Universal to Warner Brothers to 20th Century-Fox (where he wrote his perhaps most memorable solo film, Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business), all in hopes of finding the right fit. But his biggest break didn’t come from any of his films, but the skits he created for the Writers Guild. After Billy Wilder saw them, he asked Diamond if he’d work with him. Within a few years, Diamond and Wilder had been nominated for several films––Some Like it Hot (1959) and The Fortune Cookie (1966)––and won an Oscar for writing the 1960 comedy The Apartment.