February 25

Harold Ramis, beloved actor, writer, director, dead at 69

He gave us such comedies as ‘Groundhog Day,’ ‘Analyze This,’ ‘Ghostbusters,' 'Animal House' and 'Caddyshack.'

By Mark Caro
Chicago Tribune

(Continued from page 2)

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Film director Harold Ramis stands on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

2009 File Photo/Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune

“It’s my shield and my armor in the work I do,” he said. “It’s to keep a cheerful, Zen-like detachment from everything.”

Ramis’ later directorial efforts, starting with “Groundhog Day” and including “Stuart Saves His Family” (1995), “Multiplicity” (1996), “Analyze This” and his “Bedazzled” remake (2000), reflect a spiritual striving, exploring individuals’ struggles with themselves more than outside forces.

Comparing his later to earlier comedies, Ramis told the Tribune: “The content’s different, but it comes from the same place in me, which is to try to point people at some reality or truth.”

He said that at the “Analyze This” junket, a writer concluded that the filmmaker’s genre had become “goofy redemption comedy,” to which Ramis responded, “OK, I’ll take that.”

Ramis had been living in Los Angeles since late ‘70s before he returned to Chicago, basing his production company in downtown Highland Park.

“In L.A., you’re much more aware of an artificial pressure, just that you’re in a race of some kind,” Ramis recalled one morning over a veggie egg-white omelet at the coffee shop downstairs from his office. “You know, if you’re not moving forward, you’re dead in the water, because everyone around you is scheming, planning and plotting to advance themselves, often at your expense.

“I’ve compared it to high school: Am I popular? Am I cool? Am I in? Who’s the in crowd? How do I get into that party? These are not things I ever wanted to worry about. Here I’m so liberated from that.”

After unsuccessfully lobbying Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro to film “Analyze This” in Chicago, Ramis finally got his wish to shoot a film locally with the 2005 dark crime comedy “The Ice Harvest,” which starred John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton.

QUIET ABOUT HIS ILLNESS

Until his illness Ramis was out around town a fair amount, whether cheering on the Cubs and leading the occasional “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or attending theater or appearing at local organizations’ fundraisers or collecting honors, such as an honorary Doctorate of Arts from Columbia College Chicago in 2001 and a lifetime achievement award from the Just for Laughs festival in 2009. And when Second City celebrated its 50th anniversary in December 2009, Ramis joined “SCTV” cast members Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas and Martin Short in a Mainstage set that proved to be the weekend’s hottest ticket.

Ramis was quiet about his illness, but friends did visit, including brothers Bill Murray, from whom he’d been estranged for years, and former Second City castmate Brian Doyle-Murray, who appeared in seven Ramis movies.

“He was the nicest man I’ve ever met, and he taught me so much about comedy and about spirituality and about being a good person,” said Apatow said. “He had a gigantic impact on so many people.”

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