A great comedic actor/director has passed away far too soon, but he has left a treasure trove full of memorable films and performances in massively popular movies. Comedy icon Harold Ramis passed away early this morning in Chicago, Illinois from complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a very rare disease that involves the swelling of blood vessels. He was 69 years old. Ramis’ health struggle began in May 2010 when an infection led to complications with the autoimmune disease, which forced the actor and director to re-learn how to walk before relapsing in 2011.
Of course, Harold Ramis is best known as playing Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. Ramis was also the co-writer for both Ghostbusters films with Dan Aykroyd. He reprised the role for Ghostbusters: The Video Game in 2009. He also had a hand in the long-in-development Ghostbusters 3, and you have to wonder how Ramis’ death will affect that project.
Ramis was also an accomplished director whose resume included acclaimed comedies such as Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Analyze This & Analyze That. Ramis is best known for directing the instant classic Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Ramis also co-wrote the films National Lampoon’s Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes, and Year One. The Chicago native got his start in comedy with the Canadian sketch comedy TV show Second City TV (SCTV) in 1976. He also directed a few episodes of the U.S. version of The Office on NBC.
Today’s comedy landscape wouldn’t be the same without Harold Ramis. His movies inspired the likes of Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler, Jake Kasdan, Seth Rogen, and Peter & Bobby Farrelly.
No Harold Ramis, no comedy as we know it today. #RIPHaroldRamis
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) February 24, 2014
I will always remember him for his appearance in the Ghostbusters movies and directing Groundhog Day. Ramis’ deadpan comedic delivery as Dr. Egon Spengler elevated the Ghostbusters movies to another level of comedy. Although Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd took center stage as Dr. Peter Venkman and Dr. Raymond Stantz, Egon gave the movies a certain weight and comedy that the other two just couldn’t offer.
I think everyone can agree that Groundhog Day was Ramis’ masterpiece. The film is so strange, yet so appealing and accessible to virtually anyone with a funny bone. The idea of a man re-living the same day over and over again could sound tedious on paper, but Groundhog Day is anything but mundane. The film explores every possibility of its premise with great comic timing and pathos from Bill Murray’s wonderful performance. It’s clear that the film was made with a strong director behind the scenes. Harold Ramis will be greatly missed.