Television & Film

May Your Streams Never Cross — RIP Harold Ramis

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Harold Ramis passed away February 24th at the age of 69.  He may be most recognizable for his role in Ghostbusters and Stripes. He will be remembered as a great comedic writer, actor and director. His ability to bring so much to his on screen characters marks the comic legacy that he leaves behind.  Harold Ramis was a prolific writer and director. One of his most popular projects, Groundhog Day he wrote and directed.

Harold endeared himself to me with his portrayal of Egon Spengler, the straight man scientist who didn’t realize it when he said something hilarious. Egon and Ray, while grounded in their science, were dreamers. They had this wacky idea to catch ghosts that worked. Don’t look too closely at the science in Ghostbusters. It won’t hold up. But I can only imagine how many kids made their own proton packs and ghost traps. I don’t think it’s too far fetched to think that Ghostbusters may have inspired kids to study science and follow their own geeky path.

There was always the hope from fans that there would be a Ghostbusters III. But it seems that the stars did not align to bring us a third installment. And maybe that’s for the best. The first Ghostbusters had a quirky feel to it that made it special. While it did have special effects the story drove the effects not the other way around. The second Ghostbusters II lost much of the charm of the first movie.

Harold was one of the few actors from the The National Lampoon Show that Lorne Michaels did not ask to join the Saturday Night Live cast. Instead, Ramis went to SCTV and continued to hone his writing and performing skills as part of the Second City crowd. He reunited with several of the SNL alum for Animal House. Harold was one of 3 writers on Animal House.

According to director John Landis, Harold was disappointed that he was not also cast in Animal House, but after directing his first feature film, Caddyshack, he called Landis and readily admitted that he now understood why Landis had not cast him.

While most people recognize Ramis for role in Ghostbusters, he worked continually for decades. The list of credits for both writing and directing is extensive. In recent years he directed episodes of The Office. He wrote characters for video games, including both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. His influence on other comedic writers,directors is seen in many of the films of the last thirty years or more. Judd Apatow credits Ramis with being an inspiration, even playing a supporting part in Knocked Up. According to Apatow, Ramis improvised most of his dialogue. “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 favorite movies.”

In a 1999 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Ramis talked about the moment when he understood what type of career he would have:

“The moment I knew I wouldn’t be any huge comedy star was when I got on stage with John Belushi for the first time. When I saw how far he was willing to go to get a laugh or to make a point on stage, the language he would use, how physical he was, throwing himself literally off the stage, taking big falls, strangling other actors, I thought: I’m never going to be this big. How could I ever get enough attention on a stage with guys like this?

“I stopped being the zany. I let John be the zany. I learned that my thing was lobbing in great lines here and there, which would score big and keep me there on the stage.”

Ramis passed away Monday morning at his North Shore home in Chicago. He had been in poor health since May 2010, when an infection touched off complications brought on by his autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels. He had to relearn to walk and suffered a relapse of the disease in 2011, never fully recovering from the setback.

[Obituary in the Chicago Tribune]

additional reporting by Jason Hunt

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Maia Ades

Maia Ades resented the demanding schedule of first grade, as it interfered with her afternoon TV schedule. Now she watches TV for "research" and in order to write show reviews. She is currently involved in independent film production, and enjoys creating fine art.

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