Harold Ramis passed away early yesterday morning following a battle with rare blood disease autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Ramis started out as a playwright in college, honing his skills by penning parodies and editing Playboy magazine’s jokes section in the late 1960s. He joined the Second City improvisational comedy group, where he met John Belushi and Ghostbusters co-star Bill Murray.
The trio went on to work together on the New York-based radio show The National Lampoon Radio Hour in the early 1970s and Ramis’ work on the program helped him land a job as a co-writer of the 1978 comedy film, National Lampoon’s Animal House, which starred Belushi.
He and Murray became frequent collaborators, and Ramis served as writer/director on their hit movies Caddyshack and Groundhog Day. He also wrote and directed Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal’s 1999 comedy Analyze This.
As an actor, Ramis was perhaps best known for his role as bespectacled ghost hunter Dr. Egon Spengler in 1984’s Ghostbusters and its sequel, while he also played Russell Ziskey in another Murray collaboration, 1981’s Stripes.
His other acting credits included As Good as It Gets, High Fidelity and Knocked Up, in which he was cast as Seth Rogen’s dad.
Ramis also directed The Ice Harvest, Bedazzled and prehistoric comedy Year One, which was to be his final movie in 2009.
His final years were marred by private health battles – he suffered an infection in May, 2010, which caused complications related to his ongoing autoimmune disease and robbed him of his ability to walk. He recovered only to be struck down by the condition again in late 2011.
It is not clear how Ramis’ death will affect the planned second Ghostbusters sequel, which has been in development for some time.