Harold Ramis, who co-wrote Meatballs, Animal House, and Ghostbusters, and who wrote and directed Caddyshack and Groundhog Day in addition to many other directorial achievements, has died at age 69, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Despite those achievements, Ramis is best known for playing Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, where he provided the essential and exaggerated straight-man character to anchor the team that also included Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. Those two could be as looney as they wanted to be, and Ramis was there to anchor them, weird as Egon might have been.
Ramis died as a result of complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels. He had been struggling with health issues since 2010.
Ramis had a unique touch that combined ridiculous comic elements with grounded, relatable characters and humanistic concepts. Groundhog Day remains a huge draw for audiences not only because of Bill Murray’s performance, but because the film treats the growth of Murray’s character seriously, and with compassion. Ramis wasn’t afraid to go big or weird, but he always remained empathetic.
Ramis got his start as a writer and performer at Chicago’s Second City (along with Murray, Akyroyd, Gilda Radner, and John Belushi) and moved back to Chicago in the mid-’90s, and lived out the rest of his life working there rather than in Hollywood. He spoke with pride of representing the city, and was noted for being a generous and enthusiastic collaborator.