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Harold Ramis from Stripes, Ghostbusters dies at age 69



Harold Ramis, one of the most beloved actors from the '80s who found success beyond the decade as a director, died early this morning at age 69. The cause of death was complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Egon Spengler. Russell Zinsky. Chances are you might not recognize his characters' name as much as you do the movies he starred in. (Ghostbusters and Stripes, respectively.) For all his understated talent in front of the camera, it's behind the camera where Mr. Ramis really made his mark. Beginning in the late '60s, he wrote for Second City Television, Animal House and Meatballs and directed such comedy classics as Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Vacation. He both wrote and directed Groundhog Day, the 1993 comedy that followed fellow Ghostbuster Bill Murray as he relived the same day over and over again. Groundhog Day would earn Mr. Ramis a BAFTA award for best screenplay.

Mr. Ramis died shortly after midnight Monday in Chicago, where he had lived since 1996. He was surrounded by his family, the Tribune confirms.

Mr. Ramis was the good guy, the kind soul, the brain. If his comedies seemed a little too slapstick or whacky, it was out of complete devotion to the power of a gut-busting laugh. Long before Silicon Valley turned nerds into millionaires, comedy turned Harold Ramis into an '80s hero. The '80s Nation has lost its share of heroes over the last few years -- John Hughes, Michael Jackson -- but this one really hurts. Harold Ramis was still working. Still making us laugh. He was the kind of guy we all expected to grow old with.

"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, once told the Chicago Tribune. "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."

One of his latest projects was Ghostbusters III, a much-rumored and oft-delayed sequel to the beloved 1984 original.

"The trick with sequels is, you have to give people what they liked before, yet be innovative enough so they don’t feel like they’re seeing the same movie," Mr. Ramis once told the AV Club in an interview. "The comic edge of Ghostbusters will always be the same. It's still treating the supernatural with a totally mundane sensibility."

Mr. Ramis was a native of Chicago, the son of a parents who owned a food and liquor store. His first professional work was writing freelance arts stories for the Chicago Daily News in the mid-1960s. He also wrote and edited Playboy magazine’s “Party Jokes,” reports ABC News.

His biggest introduction to comedy acting was in 1972 when he took the stage at Second City along with another newcomer.

“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 Tribune 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. ... I learned that my thing was lobbing in great lines here and there, which would score big and keep me there on the stage."

Mr. Ramis is survived by his wife Erica, sons Julian and Daniel, daughter Violet and two grandchildren.

- This report contains material from the Chicago Tribune, AV Club and ABC News.

[Last modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 1:41pm]


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