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(Writer, director, and actor Harold Ramis passed away on February 24th, 2014 from complications relating to auto-immune inflammatory vasculitis. He was 69.)
For a generation, Harold Ramis was responsible for many of the comedy classics we still quote today. Whether he co-wrote, directed, or starred in them, Ramis’ films spoke to people on a level that was almost unprecedented. He helped people rebel against authority and be comfortable with themselves, even when others weren’t comfortable with them. He gave us the charismatic slacker (often played by long time friend Bill Murray), and showed how well dry humor worked.
Ramis began performing with the Second City improv troupe in Chicago, and it was working there that he started his long running connections to Murray and John Belushi. Later working with the people at National Lampoon Radio Hour and Show, he co-wrote the script for “National Lampoon’s Animal House” starring Belushi. That film broke box-office records, and Ramis followed its success with the likes of “Meatballs” (starring Murray) and “Caddyshack” (starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Murray).
More success followed with “Stripes” (which he co-starred with Murray) and “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (which he also directed). But it was 1984’s “Ghostbusters” (which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd and co-starred with Aykroyd and Murray) that many will always remember. Ramis played Dr. Egon Spengler in the film, the brains and straight man of the crew. After that film’s success, Ramis had sporadic hits, but they are still memorable. “Groundhog Day” remains one of the best comedies of this generation, and “Analyze This” (co-starring Billy Crystal) showed audiences the untapped comedic side of Robert DeNiro.
For the last decade, Ramis and Aykroyd have been working on “Ghostbusters 3” trying to get it off the ground. He and Aykroyd wrote the screenplay for the “Ghostbusters: The Video Game,” which for all intents and purposes is the third movie, with the entire cast (except Rick Moranis) reprising their beloved characters. Now, with the loss of Ramis, sadly that videogame may be all we’ll ever get of “Ghostbusters 3.”
Ramis’ works read like a laundry list of must-see comedies. Even the ones that didn’t do great at the box office, like “Club Paradise” (with Robin Williams), “Multiplicity” (starring Michael Keaton), “Bedazzled” (with Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley), and “The Ice Harvest” (with Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusack) are highly watchable.
The world has lost a truly great comic writer and performer.
R.I.P. Harold “Egon” Ramis. You will be missed!