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Obituary: Harold Ramis


Obituary by Jack Foley

ACTOR and director Harold Ramis has died at the age of 69.

Best known for the film Ghostbusters, in which he played bespectacled ghost-hunter Egon Spengler, Ramis was also a talented writer and director, whose credits included Caddyshack and Animal House.

He passed away from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, according to his agent.

Born in Chicago on November 21, 1944, to convenience store owners Ruth and Nathan, Ramis studied at Washington University in St Louis and briefly worked in a psychiatric ward upon graduation.

But he was always a fan of the arts and he began his career as a writer, penning arts stories for his local newspaper and even editing Playboy magazine’s ‘party jokes’ section.

He went on to join Chicago’s renowned Second City improvised comedy troupe but felt his own talent waned by comparison to the likes of John Belushi, so he opted to play more of a straight man role in comedy.

This was first put into practice alongside Bill Murray in Stripes before arguably being honed to perfection as Spengler – again alongside Murray and fellow co-star Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters.

The 1984 film became a global smash and one of the ’80s most iconic releases, eventually spawning a sequel in 1989 as well as a long-running cartoon series. To this day, there continues to be talk of a third film in the series, which is reportedly now in development.

Having become instantly recognisable as an actor, Ramis then chose to spend a lot more of his time behind the camera, reuniting with Murray once more to direct the memorable comedy Groundhog Day, as well as the Billy Crystal-Robert De Niro comedy-drama Analyze This.

His other films included The Ice Harvest, Bedazzled and prehistoric comedy Year One, his final movie, in 2009, while he also worked in TV, directing episodes of NBC television’s The Office.

And he continued to appear in films as an actor, albeit in more supporting roles, with High Fidelity, The Last Kiss, Knocked Up and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story to his name.

Among his awards haul, Ramis won a BAFTA, American Comedy Award and British Comedy Award.

According to the BBC, however, Ramis had been struggling with illness since 2010 but had kept it quiet – although several friends, including Murray (with whom he had been estranged) had paid him visits recently.

A statement released by his family said: “His creativity, compassion, intelligence, humour and spirit will be missed by all who knew and loved him.”

And on Twitter, colleagues were quick to express their grief while paying tribute to his memory.

Billy Crystal, who starred in Analyze This and its sequel Analyze That, wrote: “Sad to hear my friend Harold Ramis passed away. A brilliant, funny actor and director. A wonderful husband and dad. Big loss to us all.”

While Iron Man director Jon Favreau added: “No, no, not Harold Ramis. Worked for him years ago. He was the real deal. Growing up, his work changed my life. He will be missed.”

He is survived by his wife, Erica, sons Julian and Daniel, daughter Violet and two grandchildren.