Iconic Eighties comedian Harold Ramis dies at 69
Known for roles in 'Ghostbusters,' 'Stripes,' and directing 'Caddyshack,' 'Groundhog Day'
One of Hollywood's most successful comics, Harold Ramis' credits read like a list of the most significant comedies of the past few decades. Appearing in both "Ghostbusters" and "Stripes" as an actor and directing film favorites "Caddyshack" and "Groundhog Day," Ramis was a fiercely loyal Chicagoan. He was there when he passed away from a rare heart ailment surrounded by family and friends; Ramis was 69.
Knowing he could never compete with friend and fellow comedian John Belushi in terms of sheer zaniness, Harold Ramis usually played the subdued egghead in his classic comedies, such as "Ghostbusters."
"There's a pride in what I do that other people share because I'm local, which in L.A. is meaningless; no one's local," Ramis in a 1999 interview. "It's a good thing. I feel like I represent the city in a certain way."
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Ramis co-wrote the 1978 comedy classic "National Lampoon's Animal House" which catapulted the film career of John Belushi, with whom Ramis acted with at Second City. He also wrote and co-starred in the military comedy "Stripes" in 1981 and "Ghostbusters" in 1984.
Ramis also directed "Caddyshack" (1980), "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983), "Groundhog Day" and "Analyze This." Ramis had most recently directed episodes of NBC's "The Office."
A successful writer, director and actor, Ramis was also an all-around good guy.
"He's the least changed by success of anyone I know in terms of sense of humor, of humility, sense of self," the late Second City founder Bernie Sahlins, who began working with Ramis in 1969, said of him in 1999. "He's the same Harold he was 30 years ago. He's had enormous success relatively, but none of it has gone to his head in any way."
Ramis came to a major realization when he worked alongside fellow comedian John Belushi in 1972. "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," he said in a 1999 interview.
"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 died from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, his wife Erica Mann Ramis said.
Ramis' serious health struggles began in May 2010 with an infection that led to complications related to the autoimmune disease. Ramis had to relearn to walk but suffered a relapse of the vasculitis in late 2011.
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