For reasons I can’t explain, when I was a child I began doing something most adults don’t even do: reading the credits during (and after) a movie. I found it fascinating one could be set in Detroit, yet say “Filmed in Los Angeles” at the end.
Within the span of a few short years, I noticed the movies I enjoyed the most had one thing in common: Harold Ramis. His name would pop up all over the place.
It started innocently enough, when I saw Animal House. “Written by” was something I liked taking note of; who was behind the hilarity I was seeing? Then he directed Caddyshack… wrote and starred in Stripes…
(Side Note: I remember seeing Stripes and being enthralled when John Winger’s girlfriend entered her scene while topless. I had the thought, “Is that what a relationship is like? Full of awesomely casual nudity?” It looked like the best thing ever… until she dumped him one minute later.)
Harold Ramis was the complete package: he could write, act, direct, and produce. And not only could he do each of those things, he could do them well. It wasn’t like a movie star saying, “I want to direct” and creating some haphazard mess; Ramis was a master across the board.
He became sort of an idol of mine. Yes, Bill Murray was nothing short of fantastic, and every boy wanted to be as cool as him… But there was something about the power of Harold Ramis. Maybe he wasn’t as cool, maybe he wasn’t handsome, but he was smart and talented. As a teenager, I knew there was power in talent. Being a face on a screen was one thing; being able to write was another. Being able to direct on top of that? Get the fuck out of here. That was a threat to be reckoned with.
For a while, it seemed like he could only get better. Ramis followed movies like Vacation and Stripes with Ghostbusters, and then followed that with Groundhog Day, which may have been his plateau.
(Yes, I know he didn’t direct all of those films; I’m just discussing anything he was an important part of.)
I enjoyed his later work—Analyze This! and even Multiplicity—but he will always be remembered for his classic work of the late 1970s and the decade known as the 80s.
Sadly, I didn’t even know he had fallen ill. To find that at one point he had to learn to walk again was tough to read.
It is a sad day for the planet when Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, and Lindsay Lohan are still alive, and Harold Ramis is not.