The world was recently shaken by the news that film legend Harold Ramis passed away on February 24th from an infection that resulted from a complication with his autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. Ramis was perhaps most well-known as the gawky Dr. Egon Spengler from the 1984 hit Ghostbusters, but his contribution to the world of comedy was actually far broader and more influential. We look back at some of Ramis’ most important works.
Writer/Director | Analyse This (1999)
Analyse This spawned the less received sequel Analyse That in 2002, but the original remains very entertaining. Ramis co-wrote the script with Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me) and Peter Tolan (Just Like Heaven) as well as directing. The film stars Robert DeNiro as mob boss Paul Vitti, who suffers from anxiety so he starts seeing psychiatrist Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal).
Actor | As Good as it Gets (1997)
Ramis’ part as Dr. Bettes in the Academy Award winning As Good As It Gets was little more than a cameo but he nonetheless brings great warmth to the specialist who treats the asthmatic son of working class waitress Carol (Helen Hunt).
Actor | Knocked Up (2007)
Ramis was only in Judd Apatow’s smash hit Knocked Up for a few minutes collectively, but the sincerity he brings to the line “I love you. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me” justifies the inclusion of his role as Ben’s Dad on this list. Apatow himself later commented, “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.”
Writer | Animal House (1978)
Arguably the greatest college comedy of all time, Animal House has been monumentally influential in American comedy. John Landis directed a script from Ramis, Douglas Kennedy (Caddyshack) and Chris Miller (Multiplicity). Toga!
Writer/Actor | Stripes (1981)
One of many collaborations between Ramis, Bill Murray and director Ivan Reitman (father of Jason Reitman), Stripes follows two slackers who decide to enlist in the U.S. Army, but have things other than war on their mind. Murray insisted that his long time friend Ramis be cast so that Ramis could help Murray re-write his dialogue and improvise.
Director | National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
The original and arguably the best. National Lampoon’s Vacation was the very first film focusing on the Griswald family and was only Ramis’ second feature as a director. Film legend John Hughes wrote the script focusing on well-meaning Clark Griswald, who takes his family on a holiday to Walley World.
Director/Writer | Caddyshack (1980)
Caddyshack is the story of a high brow country club that has to deal with a self-confident new member and a gofer that is hell-bent on destroying the golf course. Ramis originally wanted Pink Floyd to do the music for the film, but was unable to get them to agree.
Writer/Actor | Ghostbusters (1984)
Perhaps Ramis’ most famous contribution to the world of cinema, Ghostbusters remains a bonafide classic today. Ramis co-stars alongside Bill Murray, Dan Aykryod and Ernie Hudson as Dr. Egon Spengler. Aykroyd’s original version of the script took place in the future, but would have cost $300 million dollars to make, so Ramis was brought in to rewrite the script to a contemporary setting.
Writer/Director | Groundhog Day (1993)
Perhaps the greatest use of Bill Murray in any film (although Lost in Translation and Zombieland are close on its heels), Groundhog Day somehow manages to mix existentialism with humour. Undoubtedly Ramis’ best work as a director, Groundhog Day is not only one of the funniest films of all time, but also one of the most thoughtful comedies ever made. Unfortunately, the film would mark the final collaboration between Ramis and Murray, who clashed on set over the tone and the themes.