Although he was a respected novelist and poet, Vincenzo Cerami, who has died aged 72 after a long illness, was perhaps best known as a screenwriter, thanks to his long partnership with the director Roberto Benigni. The pair co-wrote six films and had their greatest success with La Vita è Bella (Life Is Beautiful, 1997), which starred Benigni as a Jewish internee in a concentration camp, desperately pretending to his young son that it is all a game. The film won three Oscars and had a further four nominations, including for best screenplay. "Knowing Vincenzo was a gift," said Benigni, "because he taught people's hearts to beat."
On their early films together, Cerami was not able to totally sublimate Benigni's excesses as an actor. Nevertheless, Il Piccolo Diavolo (The Little Devil, 1988), Johnny Stecchino (1991) and Il Mostro (The Monster,