Ghostbusters star Ramis dies, aged 69
HAROLD Ramis - a writer, director and actor whose boisterous but sly silliness helped catapult comedies like Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Animal House and Caddyshack to commercial and critical success - died on Monday in his Chicago-area home.
He was 69. The cause was complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a disease that involves the swelling of blood vessels, said Chris Day, a spokesman for United Talent Agency, which represented Ramis.
The writer was a master at creating hilarious plots and scenes peopled by indelible characters, among them a groundskeeper obsessed with a gopher, fraternity brothers at war with a college dean and a jaded weatherman condemned to living through Groundhog Day over and over.
"More than anyone else," Paul Weingarten wrote in The Chicago Tribune Magazine in 1983, "Harold Ramis has shaped this generation's ideas of what is funny."
To Ramis, the fact was that "comedy is inherently subversive".
"We represent the underdog as comedy usually speaks for the lower classes," he once said. "We attack the winners."
He collaborated with the people who came to be considered as the royalty of comedy in the 1970s and 80s, notably from the first-generation cast of Saturday Night Live, including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner.
His breakthrough came in 1978 when he joined Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller to write National Lampoon's Animal House, which starred Belushi and broke the box-office record for comedies at the time.
With Aykroyd, he went on to write Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), playing the super-intellectual Dr Egon Spengler in tales of a squad of New York City contractors specialising in ghost removal.
Ramis was born in Chicago on Nov 21, 1944, to parents who worked long hours at the family store, Ace Food and Liquor Mart. He loved television so much, he said, that he got up early on Saturday mornings and stared at the screen until the first programme began.
Ramis' first marriage ended in divorce. At the time of his death, he was married to Ms Erica Mann, who survives him, along with his sons, Julian and Daniel; his daughter, Violet; a brother, Steve; and two grandchildren.
Ramis was multitalented: He was a skilled fencer and a ritual drummer, he spoke Greek to the owners of his local coffee shop and taught himself to ski by watching skiers on television. He made his own hats from felted fleece.
He said he felt pride in having made two - maybe four - movies that might earn a footnote in film history. He did not specify which ones.
"That gives you a tremendous sense of validation," he told The Los Angeles Times in 1993.
"But, at the same time, you suffer the possibility that the next thing you do will be awful, and you have to face getting older, and I'm not really looking forward to being 77 and being out there directing Caddyshack XII."