Harold Ramis dead; 'Ghostbusters,' 'Stripes' actor was 69

Steve Carell, left, and Harold Ramis before the Steve Carell, left, and Harold Ramis before the NBA All-Star basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007 in Las Vegas. Photo Credit: AP / Kevork Djansezian

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Harold Ramis, writer-director of the comedy classic "Groundhog Day" and a writer-star of "Ghostbusters," died early Monday morning after a long illness. He was 69.

His wife, Erica Mann Ramis, confirmed his death to the Chicago Tribune. Ramis, a Chicago native, was a longtime resident of that city's North Shore.

Ramis' other hits included Bill Murray's "Caddyshack" and Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro's "Analyze This," both of which he directed and co-wrote. He also co-wrote director John Landis' "National Lampoon's Animal House," and directed writer John Hughes' "National Lampoon's Vacation."

Ramis had undergone surgery in May 2010 for the autoimmune disease vasculitis, the paper said, and suffered complications that left him unable to walk. He spent a year and a half relearning to walk, through months of therapy at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He then suffered a relapse and never recovered, his wife said.

Ramis' frequent colleague Dan Aykroyd issued a statement Monday, saying he was "deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend . . . May he now get the answers he was always seeking."

Born Nov. 21, 1944, in Chicago, the son of convenience-store owners, Ramis attended Washington University in St. Louis. He began his career in the early days of "guerrilla television," as part of the 1960s do-it-yourself video collective TVTV. Through that background, plus stints working in a mental institution, as a public school teacher in the projects and as the jokes editor for Playboy magazine, he developed a twin trajectory that was both humanist and intensely media-informed.

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After collaborating on comedy shows in college, Ramis began taking workshops at Chicago's famed Second City, whose improvisational-comedy troupe he would later join. In 1974, he and Second City colleagues including John Belushi and Bill Murray moved to New York to work on "The National Lampoon Radio Hour," which spun off the 1975 revue "The National Lampoon Show." Ramis went on to help create what became a cult-hit syndicated series, "Second City Television" aka "SCTV," becoming its first head writer as well as a frequent performer.

Ramis then teamed with National Lampoon magazine co-founder Douglas Kenney and, later, Chris Miller to write the screenplay for "Animal House," a raunchy yet witty college-fraternity comedy that earned an astounding $141 million in 1978.

Ramis went on to a prolific and fruitful career as writer, director, producer and actor, making movies through 2009's Jack Black-Michael Cera comedy "Year One," and directing the last of his four episodes of NBC's "The Office" in 2010.

Ramis' first marriage, to Anne Plotkin, ended in divorce; the couple had a daughter, Violet Stiel. In 1989 he married Mann, daughter of director Daniel Mann, and had sons Julian and Daniel. He is survived by his wife, children and two grandchildren.

 

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A few highlights of Ramis' career

 

ACTOR

"SCTV" (1976-1979) (also writer)

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"Stripes" (1981) (also writer)

"Ghostbusters" (1984) (also writer)

"Ghostbusters II" (1989) (also writer)

"Knocked Up" (2007)

DIRECTOR

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"Caddyshack" (1980) (also writer)

"National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983)

"Groundhog Day" (1993) (also writer)

"Multiplicity" (1996)

"Analyze This" (1999) (also writer)

SCREENWRITER

"Animal House" (1978)

"Meatballs" (1979)

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