Harold Ramis, actor, director & writer, died at 69

  Dead Famous

Dead, Harold Allen Ramis on February 24, 2014, he was an American actor, director, and writer specializing in comedy.

His best-known film acting roles are as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters (1984) and Russell Ziskey in Stripes (1981); he also co-wrote both films.

Born on November 21, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Ruth (née Cokee) and Nathan Ramis, who owned the Ace Food & Liquor Mart on the city’s far North Side.

Ramis had a Jewish upbringing. In his adult life, he did not practice any religion.

He graduated from Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School in June 1958 and Nicholas Senn High School in 1962, both Chicago Public Schools, and in 1966 from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was a member of the Alpha Xi chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.

Following his work in St. Louis, Ramis returned to Chicago, where by 1968, he was a substitute teacher at schools serving the inner-city Robert Taylor Homes.

He also became associated with the guerrilla television collective TVTV, headed by his college friend Michael Shamberg, and wrote freelance for the Chicago Daily News.

“Michael Shamberg right out of college had started freelancing for newspapers and got on as a stringer for a local paper and I thought, ‘Well, if Michael can do that, I can do that’. I wrote a spec piece and submitted it to the Chicago Daily News, the Arts & Leisure section, and they started giving me assignments [for] entertainment features.”

Additionally, Ramis had begun studying and performing with Chicago’s Second City improvisational comedy troupe.

While with Second City, Harold Ramis became known for his sharp intellect and quick ad-libs. (Other distinguished performers in the troupe during this time include John Belushi, Bill Murray and Brian Doyle Murray.)

By the mid-1970s, Ramis had joined Second City’s television show, SCTV, as a writer and performer. He worked with a number of other comic talents on the show, including John Candy and Eugene Levy.

Ramis made his directorial debut in 1980 with Caddyshack. Starring veteran stand-up performer Rodney Dangerfield, the comedy pokes fun at a posh country club and its snooty members.

In addition to his directing duties, Ramis wrote the film’s script with Doug Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray.

Stepping in front of the camera the following year, Ramis co-starred with Bill Murray in the military send-up Stripes (1981); he played the best friend of Murray’s character, who joins the Army with him, in the film.

As a director, Ramis tackled more comedies in the late ’90s with mixed results. Both Stuart Saves His Family (1995) and Multiplicity (1996) were critical and commercial duds, but he went on to direct and co-write the screenplay for Analyze This (1999), a smart comedy about a gangster (Robert De Niro) and his psychiatrist (Billy Crystal).

He later directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the film’s 2002 sequel, Analyze That.

He was survived by wife Erica Mann (m. 1989); their two sons, Julian and Daniel; and his daughter, Violet, from his first marriage to Anne Plotkin; and two grandchildren.