Harold Ramis, best known for starring with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in the 1984 megahit "Ghostbusters," died early today at age 69.
"Ramis, a longtime North Shore [Chicago] resident, was surrounded by family when he died at 12:53 a.m. from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, his wife Erica Mann Ramis said," reports the Chicago Tribune.
As a writer or director, Ramis was involved in a number of modern comedies, the Tribune notes, including " ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’ (which upon its 1978 release catapulted the film career of John Belushi, with whom Ramis acted at Second City), ‘Stripes’ (1981) and ‘Ghostbusters’ (in which Ramis also co-starred) plus … ‘Caddyshack’ (1980), ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ (1983), ‘Groundhog Day’ and ‘Analyze This.’ "
Variety said in its obituary, "A veteran of the seminal comedy entities Second City and National Lampoon, Ramis’ remarkable run of canonical hits in the 1980s helped introduce anarchic sketch comedy techniques into mainstream film and proved an incalculable influence on a generation of comedy auteurs. Equally comfortable behind the camera and in front of it, Ramis’ work ranged from charmingly vulgar Rodney Dangerfield vehicles to the blockbuster sci-fi spectacle ‘Ghostbusters’ and the genuine, unpretentious existential profundity of ‘Groundhog Day.’
The Variety story continues, "Born in Chicago, Ramis studied at Washington U. in St. Louis and joined Second City in 1969, where he would go on to work and perform with frequent collaborators Bill Murray and John Belushi. After stints as a substitute teacher, a freelance journalist and a writer at Playboy, Ramis joined the writing staff of ‘The National Lampoon Radio Hour’ in the mid-1970s, and later became head writer of Second City’s groundbreaking Canadian sketch comedy skein, ‘SCTV.’
"Ramis’ first produced feature screenplay (co-written with Chris Miller and Douglas Kenney) was the 1978 John Landis-directed ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House,’ which launched Belushi’s film career. The second-highest-grossing film of the year, ‘Animal House’ marked the beginning of a remarkable winning streak for multihyphenate Ramis, who would go on to be involved with an almost dizzying number of hit comedies over the next several years."
In a separate Variety story, Judd Apatow said, “Harold Ramis made almost every movie which made me want to become a comedy director. ‘Animal House,’ ‘Stripes,’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Vacation,’ ‘Groundhog Day.’ These films are the touchstones of our lives. I interviewed him when I was 16 years old for my high school radio station and he could not have been more gracious and hilarious. I looked up to him as a director but even more so as a man. We hired him to play Seth’s father in ‘Knocked Up’ because we all saw him as the dream dad — funny, warm and wise. Harold was one of the nicest people I have ever met and he inspired countless people to go into comedy. His brilliant work will make people happy forever.”