RIP Harold Ramis, The Man Who Gave us Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day

Illustration for article titled RIP Harold Ramis, The Man Who Gave us Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day

Harold Ramis — director and co-writer of Groundhog Day and the brains behind the Ghostbusters operation, died today from complications related to auto-immune inflammatory vasculitis. He was 69.


Chicago Tribune reports that the North Shore resident passed away at 12:53 a.m. from the rare disease he had been battling for over four years. We are all lesser without him.

Well known and loved for his Ghostbusters character Dr. Egon Spengler, Ramis indelibly marked our childhood lobbing one liners between Bill Murray's antics. He was the brains of the operation, the guy with the gadgets, the character unafraid to "take the puppies away" or construct a highly volatile proton pack and strap it to the backs of his best friends. But in reality, the real Harold Ramis was even smarter than Egon.

Simply put, Ramis' work behind the camera changed the scope of comedic film forever. Ramis' writing credits include Animal House and Ghostbusters. He directed Caddyshack, Multiplicity, and National Lampoon's Vacation. He wrote AND directed Bedazzled and the most re-watchable film in history: Groundhog Day. And that's just to list a few.

What do all these films have in common? They are entirely smarter than they have any business being. Ramis didn't make shallow, face valued films he made tiny capsules of joy, spirituality, or nostalgia. Take Ramis thoughts on the redemption and the spiritual journey (wildly embraced by many different religions) inside Groundhog Day (which he addresses in the below video):

Animal House wasn't just an excuse to feature John Belushi and friends. Ramis was searching for the long lost revolutionary spirit. In an interview with the New Yorker he explained, "Our generation's revolutionary energy had slipped away after Kent State and the rise of the violent fringe of the Weather Underground... We revived it."

And again, director of Ghostbusters Ivan Reitman describes how Ramis shaped the script for the better:

[Reitman] suggested that they ask Ramis to join the cast—and to do a rewrite with Aykroyd that would play to Murray's strengths. "Harold added the irony, the heart, the romance with Sigourney Weaver, and all the adult writing, as well as the structure," Aykroyd says. "And he knew which passes to throw Bill, so Bill would look funny throughout."


His influence escalated comedy from SCTV (Second City TV) to small cameos on Knocked Up, we will not forget you, Harold Ramis.


Charlie Jane Anders

He was an amazing creator. I was just reading this feature about the making of Groundhog Day, which explained how Ramis fixed writer Danny Rubin's script:

For one, it began in media res, as it were. Rubin explains. "The first things that happens is you hear the clock radio come on with the 'I Got You Babe' and then the DJs come on doing their little shtick and Phil is able to sort of mouth the words to what they're saying when he wakes up before he even knows what they're saying and the audience is thinking, 'Huh, that’s strange. How does he know what's playing on the radio?' And then he goes downstairs and he knows what Mr. Lancaster is going to say before she says it, so he’s anticipating and the audience is thinking, 'Wow, this is weird. How does this guy know what’s going to happen before it happens?' Then he goes outside and this geeky goes, 'Phil?' and Phil goes up to him and takes off his glove and he slugs him and we have no idea why that happened. And so, I set it up by beginning in the middle with this mystery. How does this guy have this supernatural ability and we go through meeting, you know, going through the Groundhog report and setting up the day and then he repeats the day and that’s when we know how the movie is set up and we understand how he knows what he knows..."

Rightly, Ramis suggested that the script should set Phil's normal life up first as well as cutting the original ending, which, as he told the New Yorker, saw Rita "reveal that she’s trapped in her own endless repetition, and that there’s no existential relief in sight." The studio also tried to get the writer to add a scene that explained Phil's predicament as the result of a gypsy curse put on him by an ex-lover, but Ramis refused to shoot it.