The world lost a comedy icon yesterday as Harold Ramis passed away aged 69 after a prolonged illness. Ramis was rightly loved and admired by his fans and fellows as a gifted comedy writer, director and performer, and leaves behind an impressively varied catalogue of chortle-inducing work spanning four decades.
A Marx Brothers fan from an early age, Ramis tried his hand at comedy plays in college before writing jokes for Playboy, then making the successful transition to TV and film along with fellow wild-card funnymen John Belushi, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.
Ramis, as if anyone needs to be reminded, co-wrote anarchic frat comedy ANIMAL HOUSE and the ever-popular GHOSTBUSTERS and its sequel (as well as memorably self-casting himself as the titular supernatural pest control team’s straight man Egon Spengler) before taking the reigns on his own projects, often collaborating with close friend Bill Murray.
His finest hour came with the release of GROUNDHOG DAY, which remains one of the best time travel (or time loop) films ever made, discussing big philosophical concepts with wit, warmth and just a touch of cynicism (all expressed through Murray’s trademark deadpan performance style). The end product tellingly shows the Ramis/Murray professional-affectionate partnership at its strongest, despite the fact that disagreements over the story and its meaning ruined their friendship – it’s a real testament to their professionalism that they managed to produce the best film possible, even if their working relationship was tarnished by it.
Ramis again stepped behind the camera to direct several of the more memorable episodes of THE OFFICE, and was reportedly open to the long-gestating third Ghostbusters movie (naturally conditional on his fellow castmates’ involvement) and in that regard, I sincerely hope his tragic death finally puts the project to rest. Aykroyd was reluctant to launch into production when Murray expressed disdain , so I doubt he’d want to press on now one of the Ghostbusters, and one of his close friends, has died.
It’s common practice to mourn for what might have been when a real talent in the film world passes away, but surely we should instead be thankful for what was. Thankyou, Harold Ramis, for Animal House, for Ghostbusters and especially for Groundhog Day. Not so grateful for BEDAZZLED, but you can’t win ’em all… SSP