You know Harold Ramis as Dr. Egon Spengler in the movie Ghostbusters, among his many other roles. A veteran of the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, he was the gifted comedic writer behind many hit films such as Animal House, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Stripes. Ramis directed National Lampoon’s Vacation and Caddyshack, and was both the director and producer of Groundhog Day. But those are only the highlights of Ramis’ extensive filmography.
Ramis’ comedies were often wild, silly and tilting toward anarchy, but they also were cerebral and iconoclastic, with the filmmaker heeding the Second City edict to work at the top of one’s intelligence. This combination of smart and gut-bustingly funny led a generation of comedic actors and filmmakers — including Judd Apatow (“The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”, Jay Roach (“Meet the Parents,” the “Austin Powers” movies), Peter Farrelly (“There’s Something About Mary,” “Dumb and Dumber”), Jake Kasdan (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Orange County,” both of which featured Ramis in small roles) and Adam Sandler (who starred in his own wacky golf comedy, “Happy Gilmore”) — to cite him as a key inspiration.
Ramis died this morning in Chicago from complications of a rare autoimmune disease. He was 69.