We are saddened to report the death of one of our beloved film icons. Harold Ramis, comedian, writer, and director, died early Monday morning after a long illness. He was 69. Ramis began his career with legendary improv troupe Second City in Chicago, before moving into film, and he leaves behind a classic body of work, including writing credits on National Lampoon’s Animal House, Stripes, and Ghostbusters, in which he also played Egon Spengler. He directed Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Analyze This, and one of the best philosophical time-loop movies that has ever been made, Groundhog Day.
It may be a cliché to talk about someone changing the state of comedy, or the direction of a stranger’s life, but everyone here at Tor.com embraces those clichés today. Harold Ramis didn’t just change comedy, he defined it for many of us. His brand of smart-assery permeated our childhoods, particularly in his pairings with Bill Murray. After bringing the razor-edged black humor of the National Lampoon to movie screens with Animal House, he further refined the “snobs vs slobs” subgenre with Meatballs and Caddyshack. These films celebrated underdogs and nerds, without ever resorting to stock images of bespectacled losers—Ramis’ nerds were all unique individuals who defied stereotyping, and this came to its apex with Ghostbusters. Egon Spengler is not just a super-nerd, he’s also right about everything, willing to walk into battles with the supernatural, and even becomes an object of love for Annie Potts’ Janine.
And that is all before we get to Groundhog Day. In this film, Ramis proved that he was comfortable with genre-hopping, genre-mashing, genre-blending—basically, he ignored genre entirely in service of a story of growth and human potential, and turned February 2nd into one of the best days of the year.
Harold Ramis is survived by his wife, Erica Mann Ramis, and a legacy of films and jokes that enriched all of our lives. He will be terribly missed.