His first big-screen directing credit was “Caddyshack.” His first big-screen writing credit was “Animal House” — followed over the next eight years by “Meatballs,” “Caddyshack,” “Stripes,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Back to School,” with a few seasons of “SCTV” mixed in. He was the Mike Trout of Hollywood comedy, basically, and that’s before you get to “Groundhog Day.” Even the smaller successes on his resume, like “Armed and Dangerous,” “Multiplicity,” and the “Bedazzled” remake, are fond memories. I’m lazy so I tend to think of him in tandem with John Hughes, not just because they were contemporaries with an improbable string of hits (who hooked up on “Vacation,” of course) but because of how innocuous and even sweet they made rebellion seem. (A lot of 80s comedies did, thanks to their influence.) They were great pop songwriters. If you were a kid when these movies broke big, you’ll never not be nostalgic for them.
And now, like Hughes, Ramis is gone too soon.
Ramis, a longtime North Shore resident, was surrounded by family when he died at 12:53 a.m. from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, his wife Erica Mann Ramis said. He was 69.
Ramis’ serious health struggles began in May 2010 with an infection that led to complications related to the autoimmune disease, his wife said. Ramis had to relearn to walk but suffered a relapse of the vaculitis in late 2011, said Laurel Ward, vice president of development at Ramis’ Ocean Pictures production company.
There are endless salutes to the subtle genius of “Groundhog Day” online, from National Review to the Atlantic to the Guardian and beyond. Murray was the perfect Ramis hero, never more so than in GD: Seemingly shallow but with great depth, and tenderness, underneath. How many mainstream comedies can seriously be parsed for hidden religious meanings? That’s the level Ramis had reached. RIP.
Via Matt Lewis, here’s the man himself on the resonance of “Groundhog Day” in 2009. Click the image to watch.
Update (Ed): There are far too many great moments of Harold Ramis on screen to remember in a short clip. However, nothing Ramis ever did on screen touched me more than this scene from Knocked Up, which I think rescued the film from being a second-rate stoner comedy. Seth Rogen is telling his father that a baby is on the way, and that it’s a disaster — and Ramis stops him cold (NSFW):
Rest in piece, Mr. Ramis, and thanks for all of the great memories.