Most of us are familiar with movies like “Caddyshack”, “Groundhog Day”, “Stripes”, and of course, the “Ghostbusters” movies. Harold Ramis was not only a beloved actor, but he also was a talented writer and director. He passed today at age 69, of complications due to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. He’d been battling the condition for the past four years.
For over 40 years, Ramis has been a presence in our lives that we’ve never met. One of the most well known men in comedy, he was a veteran of the Second City troupe in his Chicago hometown. His movie credits include the above mentioned, but many people do not know that he also voiced the character Zeke in the 1981 animated cult classic “Heavy Metal”, produced a number of television shows, and graduated from Washington University in Saint Louis, where he also later worked in a mental institution. He credited that for preparing him for Hollywood life, saying that it…
…prepared me well for when I went out to Hollywood to work with actors. People laugh when I say that, but it was actually very good training. And not just with actors; it was good training for just living in the world. It’s knowing how to deal with people who might be reacting in a way that’s connected to anxiety or grief or fear or rage. As a director, you’re dealing with that constantly with actors. But if I were a businessman, I’d probably be applying those same principles to that line of work.
Harold definitely had a way of blending deeper messages within his comedy. To his credit, he often pulled larger themes into his work. “Groundhog Day” has actually been the subject for many philosophical discussions. So much so, that when it came out, Ramis said that he received correspondence from people of all different faiths, discussing the film’s premise and potential spiritual applications. In an interview, he said,
”At first I would get mail saying, ‘Oh, you must be a Christian, because the movie so beautifully expresses Christian belief,’ ” Mr. Ramis said during a conversation on his mobile phone as he was walking the streets of Los Angeles. ”Then rabbis started calling from all over, saying they were preaching the film as their next sermon. And the Buddhists! Well, I knew they loved it, because my mother-in-law has lived in a Buddhist meditation center for 30 years and my wife lived there for 5 years.”
More than just an actor, writer, producer, and director, Harold Ramis also worked as a mentor in a number of comedy centers. A man of immense strength, as well as talent, after an infections that led to complications with his rare autoimmune disease, he had to relearn to walk. However, he was always a good natured, down to earth man, with a sense of humor about most things. Known to friends and loved ones as being fairly close in personality to the characters he portrayed, Ramis is survived by his wife, Erica Mann Ramis, three children, and two grandchildren.
Image Credit: Phantom Lim