Date of Birth: November 21, 1944
Date of Death: February 23, 2014
If you name your top five favorite movie comedies, you will undoubtedly name at least one that was helmed, acted in or written by Harold Ramis.
Although he was often thought of as a Canadian, he actually hailed from Chicago, Illinois. Since Ramis was a founding member of Canada's Second City Comedy Troupe, it's easy to see why fans made the mistake. He actually began his career in comedy as a writer for Playboy magazine's Party Jokes page. While holding down this enviable day job, he was also performing at night as part of Chicago's famed Second City Comedy Troupe. He worked alongside such comedy legends as John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. Despite his obvious gift of comedic talent, when it came time for producer Lorne Micheals to cast the new show Saturday Night LIve, Ramis was deemed too ethnic looking.
Not to be outdone, Ramis, along with Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, John Candy and Eugene Levy, founded the Canadian-based comedy series SCTV in 1976. The show provided a number of lifelong friendships, but also a talent for directing. "At SCTV we were virtually self-directed. Whoever wrote the piece pretty much determined how the piece was going to play. We directed each other. Joe Flaherty kind of appointed himself my director. He'd tell me stuff like 'Open your eyes real big.'"
In 1978 Ramis co-wrote the comedy Animal House and because of its success, he was soon able to write his own ticket in Hollywood. When the movie became a hit, Ramis worked a deal that would allow him to direct the next movie that he wrote. His first writing and directing job was the hilarious Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase. While Ramis is sometimes thought of as strictly an actor, he actually only acted in a handful of films, including Ghostbusters (which he co-wrote) and As Good As It Gets. His real successes were behind the camera, directing Hollywood heavyweights such as Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal in Analyze This, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley in Bedazzled.
Ramis admitted that if he had wanted a career in acting it would have been a tough road, saying at one time: "I'm still not interested in auditioning and having people tell me that my nose is too big. Well, they don't actually say it, but I cast movies and I know what I say when people leave the room. If I were acting now, I'd probably get all the roles Jeff Goldblum turns down."
Ramis lived in Brentwood, California with his wife Erica and their two sons (he has a daughter from a previous marriage) until he decided to move his brood back to his hometown of Chicago. It was there that he developed autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, in his sixties. At the age of 69, on February 24, 2014, he died from complications related to the disease.
Filmography (actor):Ghostbusters III (2012)
Filmography (director):Year One (2009)