Ghostbusters actor Harold Ramis dead at 69
Hollwood actor and director Harold Ramis has died aged 69 from a rare vascular disease. He passed away in Chicago surrounded by close family members.PT0M31S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-33dq8 620 349 February 25, 2014
Harold Ramis was one of Hollywood's most successful comedy filmmakers when he moved his family from Los Angeles back to the Chicago area in 1996. His career was still thriving, with Groundhog Day acquiring almost instant classic status upon its 1993 release and 1984's Ghostbusters ranking among the highest-grossing comedies of all time, but the writer-director wanted to return to the city where he'd launched his career as a Second City performer.
"There's a pride in what I do that other people share because I'm local, which in LA is meaningless; no one's local," Ramis said upon the launch of the first movie he directed after his move, the 1999 mobster-in-therapy comedy Analyze This, another hit. "It's a good thing. I feel like I represent the city in a certain way."
Ramis died early on Monday morning after a long illness, according to his wife, Erica Mann Ramis. He was 69.
Comedy hit: Ramis, centre, in Ghostbusters with co-stars Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.
Ramis' serious health struggles began in May 2010 after he underwent surgery for diverticulitis and suffered complications related to the autoimmune disease. Unable to walk, he spent four months that year at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, before continuing work at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
A year and a half later, Ramis had relearned to walk and was making good progress on his recovery when he suffered a relapse of the vasculitis, from which he never fully recovered, said Laurel Ward, vice president of development at Ramis' Ocean Pictures production company.
Ramis leaves behind a formidable body of work, with writing credits on such enduring comedies as National Lampoon's Animal House (which upon its 1978 release launched the film career of John Belushi, a former Second City castmate of Ramis'), Stripes (1981) and Ghostbusters (in which Ramis also co-starred) plus such directing efforts as Caddyshack (1980), National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Groundhog Day and Analyze This.
Previously he was the first head writer (and a performer) on Second City's groundbreaking television series Second City Television (SCTV) (1976-79). More recently he directed episodes of NBC's The Office.
"When I was 15, I interviewed Harold for my high school radio station, and he was the person that I wanted to be when I was growing up," said filmmaker Judd Apatow, who later would cast Ramis as Seth Rogen's father in Knocked Up and would produce Ramis' final movie, Year One (1999). "His work is the reason why so many of us got into comedy. We grew up on Second City TV and Ghostbusters, Vacation, Animal House, Stripes, Meatballs (which Ramis co-wrote); he literally made every single one of our favourite movies."
As anarchic as Ramis' early comedies were, they rigorously pursued a theme close to the heart of someone who grew out of the 1960s counterculture: characters rebelling against institutions, be they authoritarian college administrators and pampered rich kids (Animal House), a stuffy golf club (Caddyshack) or the Army (Stripes). After the collapse of his first marriage and the flop of his 1986 comedy Club Paradise (with greedy developers as the institutional villain), the Jewish-raised Ramis immersed himself in Zen Buddhism.
"It's my shield and my armour in the work I do," he said. "It's to keep a cheerful, Zen-like detachment from everything."
Ramis' later directorial efforts, starting with Groundhog Day and including Stuart Saves His Family (1995), Multiplicity (1996), Analyze This and his Bedazzled remake (2000), reflect a spiritual striving, exploring individuals' struggles with themselves more than outside forces.
Comparing his later to earlier comedies, Ramis told the Tribune: "The content's different, but it comes from the same place in me, which is to try to point people at some reality or truth."
He said that at the Analyze This junket, a writer concluded that the filmmaker's genre had become "goofy redemption comedy," to which Ramis responded, "OK, I'll take that."