Today, director, writer and actor Harold Ramis died at his Chicago home, at the age of 69, from complications arising from vasculitis, an autoimmune disease he contracted some four years ago. Noted for his blue-collar comedic sensibilities and his frequent cinematic attacks on institutions, snobbishness and smugness, Ramis’ versatility as an actor, writer and director saw its creative peak during the nineteen-eighties, where Ramis collaborated on some of the most memorable comedies of the decade. The following is just a sample of Ramis' memorable cinematic contributions during his time in Hollywood, and should in no way suggest that these are his only noteworthy films:
‘Caddyshack’ (1980): Ramis’ directorial debut is a perfect example of both his comedic sensibilities and of his utter hatred for institutions (or more specifically, “institutional smugness”). The film is a comedy classic, staring the likes of pre-indie-film Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield at his absolute best, and Chevy Chase before he became a walking punch-line, and remains one of the most quotable films ever to be captured on film.
‘Stripes’ (1981): Ivan Reitman’s ‘Stripes’ marks Harold Ramis’ first turn as an actor (on film), and sees him staring beside frequent collaborator Bill Murray as Russell Ziskey, a hapless loser who is convinced by his friend John (Murray) to join the army with him ‘for a bit of fun’. Also starring the likes of the criminally underrated John Candy as fellow slob Ox, ‘Stripes’ – though not directed by Ramis – still embodies many of the traits and tropes of his own films due to his contributions as a writer to the film’s script, and proves to be just as satisfying (and funny) as the films directed by the man himself.
‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ (1983): Back before the words “National Lampoon’s” became synonymous with terrible, sloppily written comedies that should be avoided at all costs less one enjoys having their intelligence insulted, Ramis directed ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’, starring a still funny Chevy Chase as the patriarch of the Griswold Family, whose desperate efforts to take his family to “Walley World” are constantly interrupted by a number of preposterous and hilarious setbacks that drive Chase to the brink of madness, and result in some of the funniest sequences ever caught on film.
‘Ghostbusters’ (1984): In what is arguably his most famous role (as an actor), Ramis plays Dr. Egon Spengler, the geekiest of the ghost-catching four, alongside Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson in Ivan Reitman’s (there’s that name again) ‘Ghostbusters’. The comedic chemistry shared between Ramis and his colleagues, along with Ramis’ now honed-skills as a writer, resulted in one of the most funny and captivating comedies of the nineteen-eighties, and remains as popular today as it did when the film first debuted some thirty years ago (in fact, Ramis was working on a third film in the Ghostbusters canon when he passed away).
‘Groundhog Day’ (1993): With the possible exception of his directorial debut, ‘Groundhog Day’ remains Harold Ramis’ directorial masterpiece. The film stars Bill Murray as a hapless reporter who finds himself reliving the same day over and over again, unable to escape and (barely) able to cope with the events of the day despite his many (and hilarious) attempts to do so. A more mature and, at times, darker film than some of his other creations, ‘Groundhog Day’ is a tightly-written film, with Bill Murray at his absolute best as he struggles to overcome the madness of being forced to relive the same day over and over again.
Find the nearest Blockbuster (assuming they still exist) near your home so you can rent these films almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.