Actor, director and writer Harold Ramis died Monday morning of complications associated with autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels. Ramis was 69 years old.
Ramis wrote, directed and/or acted in many signature comedy films including Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, National Lampoon's Vacation, Groundhog Day, Analyze This and its sequel, Analyze That.
He made his directorial debut in what many consider the funniest golf movie ever, Caddyshack. A film about a teenager from the other side of the tracks caddying for and hobnobbing with the well heeled at a posh country club while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
Ramis in a Biography Channel documentary about Caddyshack as much as admitted that the final product wound up looking absolutely nothing like the conceptual idea for the film. It started out as a film about caddies at a snooty country club, centering on main character Danny Noonan (played by Michael O'Keefe) and his struggles with decisions about his life and wound up being a series of gags, jokes, mishaps and other assorted and improvised slob humor that Ramis and several others involved in the film eventually centered around a toy gopher as much as they did around Noonan, and made it into a timeless comedy classic.
Caddyshack also marked the film debut of Rodney Dangerfield who played gregarious, wise-cracking real estate tycoon Al Czervik. Chevy Chase who at the time was the hottest comedy actor in the country played shady, lazy, playboy heir Ty Webb. Ted Knight was at the peak of his comedy acting talents as country club chairman and chief snob, Judge Smails. Bill Murray, playing assistant greens-keeper Carl Spackler, wound up with many of the best gags and lines in Caddyshack.
Ramis somehow managed all that talent as well as O'Keefe and a bunch of unknown younger actors to make Caddyshack. In the process he created a cult classic which has the rare gift of still getting laughs from people who've watched it from beginning to end literally dozens of times.
Trotting out the lines from the movie is a matter of routine for so many casual golfers. Between Murray, Chase, Dangerfield and Knight there are enough hilarious punchlines to easily get a foursome through an 18 hole round. Some readers are no doubt reciting them as they read this!
Harold Ramis, thank you for giving us Caddyshack and so many more of the funniest movies we've ever seen and may you rest in peace.