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Harold Ramis dies at 69, leaves legacy of laughter

Chicago born screenwriter, director and comedic actor Harold Ramis died on Monday February 24 at the age of 69. The former hospital orderly, substitute teacher, journalist and member of Chicago’s famed Second City comedy troupe ultimately brought us a string of movie comedy hits that produced pop culture icons. They remain just as funny today as they ever were.

He first big screen work was co-writing the script for 1978’s “Animal House.” This groundbreaking and raucous college fraternity comedy featured a free-wheeling narrative rife with antiestablishment high jinks perpetrated by a group of outcasts. It would become a common formula with Ramis. The following year, he transferred it to a summer camp setting in “Meatballs.” This movie is notable for launching Bill Murray’s big screen career in the lead role of an immature, fun-loving antiauthority counselor with a good heart. Next, in his directorial debut, Ramis let Murray steal the show in 1980’s “Caddyshack.” Applying his now tried and true formula to an exclusive golf club, Ramis produced a snobs vs. slobs comedy smash and firmly established himself as a top writer-director.

His acting debut came as the comparatively more mature and sensible friend of Murray’s in “Stripes.” The down-on-their-luck buds turn the army upside down, get the girls and save the day in this classic military comedy. Next up was 1984’s supernatural comedy smash “Ghostbusters.” In only his second performance, Ramis found his most memorable role as the heroic spirit battling scientist goofball Dr. Egon Spengler.

He then settled down a bit and brought us the more grounded and mildly romantic “Groundhog Day” (1993). An acerbic Bill Murray must continually relive a single day until he gets it right in this slow paced comic fantasy that’s more amusing than funny but that still has a certain charm. It was a transitional effort that led to “Analyze This” (1999) and its sequel “Analyze That” (2002). Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal play a mobster having a breakdown and the psychiatrist whose help he seeks in these final recommended gems.

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