‘Ghostbusters’ Star Harold Ramis Dies at 69

He also directed hit comedies 'Groundhog Day' and 'Caddyshack'

Harold Ramis, the estimable comedy writer, director and actor whose resume includes “Groundhog Day,” “Ghostbusters,” “Animal House,” “Caddyshack” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” died on Monday at age 69.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the cause of death was complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a disease that involves the swelling of the blood vessels. He was surrounded by friends and family in Chicago, where he was born and where he and his wife have lived since 1996.

A veteran of the seminal comedy entities Second City and National Lampoon, Ramis had a remarkable run of canonical hits in the 1980s, which helped introduce anarchic sketch comedy techniques into mainstream film and proved an incalculable influence on a generation of comedy auteurs. Ramis was equally comfortable behind the camera and in front of it; his work ranged from charmingly vulgar Rodney Dangerfield vehicles to the blockbuster sci-fi spectacle “Ghostbusters” and the genuine, unpretentious existential profundity of “Groundhog Day.”

“Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer, performer and teacher Harold Ramis,” said Ramis’ “Ghostbusters” co-star and co-writer Dan Aykroyd. “May he now get the answers he was always seeking.”

POLL: What’s Your Favorite Harold Ramis Movie?

Actor-musician Jack Black, who worked with Ramis on films including “Year One” — Ramis’ final film as a writer-director — and “Orange County,” echoed these thoughts, saying, “Harold was a force of good in the universe. So funny, sweet and thoughtful. He will be deeply missed.”

Actress Andie MacDowell, who starred in the Ramis-directed “Groundhog Day” and “Multiplicity,” called Ramis “the kindest of any director with whom I have worked. And, he was a genius. Aside from his amazing talent, he could do the New York Times crossword puzzle faster than anyone I have ever known or met.”

Born in Chicago, Ramis studied at Washington U. in St. Louis and in 1969 joined Second City, where he worked and performed with frequent collaborators Bill Murray and John Belushi. After stints as a substitute teacher, a freelance journalist and a writer at Playboy, Ramis joined the writing staff of “The National Lampoon Radio Hour” in the mid-1970s and later became head writer of Second City’s groundbreaking Canadian sketch comedy skein “SCTV.”

PHOTOS: Harold Ramis, His Filmography in Photos

Ramis’ first produced feature screenplay (co-written with Chris Miller and Douglas Kenney) was the 1978 John Landis-directed “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” which launched Belushi’s film career. The second-highest-grossing film of the year, “Animal House” marked the beginning of a remarkable winning streak for multihyphenate Ramis, who would go on to be involved with an almost dizzying number of hit comedies over the next several years.

Ramis made his directorial debut in 1980 with “Caddyshack.” It featured Murray, who had starred in the Ramis-written “Meatballs” a year prior, and with whom Ramis would work repeatedly over the years, including the following year’s “Stripes,” which featured the two as co-stars.

“National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), which Ramis directed from a script by John Hughes, was a franchise-launching hit that would be followed a year later by an even bigger one. Co-scripted by and starring Ramis, “Ghostbusters” grossed nearly $300 million worldwide and spawned a sequel and two animated TV spinoffs.

“Club Paradise” (1986) was one of Ramis’ rare directorial misfires, though he co-wrote the Dangerfield smash “Back to School” and the underappreciated “Armed and Dangerous” the same year.

The Murray-starring “Groundhog Day,” which Ramis directed and co-wrote in 1993, was a solid performer upon release, though its reputation has blossomed over the decades since, with some considering it Ramis’ masterpiece. The WGA placed it at No. 27 on its 2013 list of the 101 greatest screenplays ever written, and the National Film Preservation Board selected it for preservation by the Library of Congress in 2006.

Ramis’ later work included writing and directing the Billy Crystal-Robert De Niro hits “Analyze This” (1999) and sequel “Analyze That” (2002), as well as directing the Michael Keaton comedy “Multiplicity,” and “Stuart Saves His Family,” which was based on Al Franken’s “Saturday Night Live” character Stuart Smalley. Ramis also limned roles in 1994’s “Airheads,” 1997’s “As Good as It Gets” and 2007’s “Knocked Up.”

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  1. Stephan Klose says:

    I will sincerely miss Harold Ramis. I grew up with his Films and will forever treasure them. As a tribute I will watch “Year One” Tonight, which I had lying around since it’s been released on Blu Ray but never watched. Farewell my Friend (in my Mind he’s the friend of all his fans)

  2. Julienne says:

    Harold was a great guy. he and his wife were in the hospital room next to us in the UCLA Hospital when we had our first child. We had lots of nice little chats through-out the years. Nice man, God Bless you Harold.

  3. Sammy Stone says:

    Wrong, but funny. “Harold Ramis still to be cast in ‘Ghostbusters III’” http://dandygoat.com/harold-ramis-still-to-be-cast-in-ghostbusters-iii

  4. Paul says:

    Everything he was connected with brought laughter and heart, didn’t it? In his own way, he flew under they radar, too- not an easy thing. He was the best at what he did, the very best.

  5. Lawrence says:

    The world is a better place because of him and the laughter he helped create will echo for decades.

    Thank you Harold for all the joy brought us all.

  6. We are saddened by the passing of one of the funniest guys in Hollywood. Thank you for the laughs. May you rest in peace Harold. Our team made a tribute memorial in your honor: http://www.thememorium.com/Memorials/harold-ramis

  7. ¨…complications from autoimmune [something something]¨? Bullshit! He was only 69! Sue the hospital!

    • ifirefly says:

      Having suffered with autoimmune diseases many years, Hiram, you do a disservice suggesting such a myopic response. Perhaps in his memory, you could read up on these broad-spectrum immune disorders, and make a donation instead of suggesting such an ignorant response.

      It’s late December, and I am missing Harold Ramis. My favorite of all his onscreen work was as the unassuming Doctor Bettes on As Good As It Gets. It came as close as I’ve seen to the heart and spirit of the real man. May his family be blessed, particularly at this holy season. He was beloved by all who knew him.

  8. Unbelievable loss … the only reason why he is not mentioned with the same reverance as a Murray or an Akroyd, or a Belushi is because he spent more time behind the camera (script writing and directing) – than he did in front of it. He was the comedy equivilant of a Lennon or McCartney in music. Not going attempt to list everything he wrote, co-wrote, or directed but, his body of work casts a long and wide shadow. RIP Mr. Ramis.

  9. Brian Ray says:

    Harold Ramis was a movie legend and paved the way for many young comedians today. The work he has done over the years will go down in history as some of the greatest masterpieces in comedic entertainment. I am proud to say that I am one of his biggest fans and always will be. He will truly be missed. Rest in Peace Mr. Ramis, and remember, “Don’t cross the streams!”

  10. Gabriela Scandura says:

    So sorry to hear this sad news! I’m from Argentina and I’d just seen Groundhog Day with my 10-year-old, and she loved it as much as I do. It’s true it has gotten bigger with time. A real masterpiece! My heart goes to Ramis’ family.

  11. he was a talented Director and actor!R.I.P. Harold Ramis!

  12. I believe we have lost more than we realize. His wonderful straight man persona, hie terrific writing from Animalhouse to Ghostbusters . If you have every seen “As good as it Gets” he has a small part but it displays his wonderful dedication to his craft. If you see his films just what would be without

  13. I’ve seen every movie he has been involved in. his straight man routine which I believe is the tough part. His great direction in Grounhogday. His great writing from Animal House to Ghostbusters . We have lost more then we realize!!!!!!!!

  14. Paul zotos says:

    I met Harold on the set of vacation
    And he told me someday he would
    Write a real screwball comedy like
    Preston sturges and years later
    Seeing Groundhog Day I knew
    His dream came true
    He was the best
    We will laugh forever!
    Thank you Harold !!!!

  15. Blake says:

    What a blow to comedy films! He was the man who could do no wrong with comedies in the 80’s. A genius and visionary. Caddy shack, ghostbusters, stripes just to name a few. RIP Comedic films will never be the same

  16. lola says:

    who you gonna call! so sad, seems evry week an actor dies, he and his lovely wife made a nice couple, more pictures of Erica Mann here http://wagcelebrity.com/breaking-news/erica-mann-ramis-ghostbusters-actor-harold-ramis-wife/
    RIP fella!

  17. The man was a legend of 80s films and screenwriting gold. His penmanship, talent and wit will be missed in Hollywood and the nation at large.

  18. b.thomas says:

    Every movie that he touched, touched me.

  19. christoffergaddini says:

    This is such a tragedy, he was a great actor and director and will be sorely missed.

  20. kenmandu says:

    A man who brought so much laughter into the hearts of so many is impossible to replace. RIP.

  21. I just found out at 3:35 PM on a Monday afternoon that Mr. Harold Ramis had passed away he was a legend in Everybody eyes. I loved him in and Bill Murray in “STRIPES”. Plus don’t forget their long time buddy as well John Candy as well the “GREAT OUT DOORS and plus other movies Mr. John Candy played in. Just like Mr. Harold Ramis has done too. Now I wish to send my blessings to Mr. Ramis wife and the family. He’s in good place now where Mr. Candy is there to take care of him now and many other friends they know as well. Mr. Ramis you will always have us laughing in our hearts forever and always. R.I.P. We all will miss you.

  22. Toronto Dude says:

    I would like to extend my sympathies to Mr. Ramis’ family…and also to his former SCTV family. As a writer and performer, he helped make SCTV the finest comedy satire show on the air. I laughed my ass off back in the 70s…and I STILL laugh my ass off now whenever I catch it in syndication. He was a wonderful humourist!

  23. Peter says:

    … and the voice of Zeke in Heavy Metal (1981).

  24. John Doe says:

    Such a poignant role he played in “As Good As It Gets”. One of the world’s greatest straight-man comedians.

  25. David says:

    Brilliant and funny…now who are we gonna call?

  26. oliver says:

    Groundhog Day and Vacation are my favourites from him. RIP !

  27. Squid-Chi says:

    What a tragedy. He was a great guy, really terrific and sweet. Had the pleasure of meeting him in his hometown of Chicago–he and his wife sat and had a glass of wine with us while they waited for their table at a restaurant. Smart, funny, hard working, he will be missed.

  28. Ken says:

    Very sad. Of all of the films that have hatched from SNL beginnings “Groundhog Day” stands apart as truly great comedy. My condolences to his family and friends…

  29. Peter says:

    First met him on Hydra, when he was still the film critic for Playboy. Truly talented, he left us too soon.

  30. Leo says:

    Too bad. Such a great presence, and super funny. Groundhog Day is fantastic.

  31. david t. krall says:

    from: David t. krall
    email: truthatlarge@hotmail.com

    I am shocked and saddened by the passing of Harold Ramis…A true comedic talent. I will
    always remember him as part of the original (?) group of SCTV which actually pro-dated SNL for one or two years and then ran before it (here in Phila area–old Ch. 48 at 11:PM on Sat. Nights) as SNL was and is at 11:30 /NBC) back in the early/mid 1970’s. A Great Talent. First John Belushi, then Gilda Radner, John Candy now Harold Ramis. SCTV was so good that when it later “went over” to NBC (late Fri. nights) there was serious talk about it actually rotating with SNL on Sat. Nights. SCTV never, truly (& sadly), really received the the same level of attention as their colleagues and friends at SNL. The SCTV and SNL crowds all knew each other and were part of the same “comedic line”.from SECOND CITY COMEDY GROUP…That whole group, SNL/SCTV, ALL (!) belong on the MOUNT RUSHMORE of comedy…Mr. Harold Ramis you did very well and made others smile, laugh and made people happy through your work…THANK YOU !!!
    God’s Speed and Safe Journey, Rest In Peace…

    David T. Krall

  32. Josalyn says:

    This brilliant guy will be sorely missed big time . R.I.P.

  33. Tommy Bull says:

    So Sad to hear. Another Great
    Talent gone too soon.

  34. The Monarch says:

    Thanks to Mr. Ramis for all the joy and entertainment he brought us, and condolences to his family. He will be warmly remembered.

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  36. Arnie Tracey says:

    Rest in Peace, Mr. Ramis.

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