Harold Ramis, perhaps best known for his role as Egon Spengler, the brainiest and most hilariously understated of the "Ghostbusters," died today from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, according to Chicago Tribune. He was 69.
The man who made us imagine a Twinkie that was "35 feet long, weighing approximately 600 pounds," claimed that "Print is dead" back in 1984 and taught us never to "cross the streams" has left behind quite the Hollywood legacy, as he's one of the creative forces behind not only "Ghostbusters" but also quite a few of the other greatest comedies of all time.
Here are the highlights of Harold Ramis' career as a writer, director and actor, in order of release.
1. "Second City Television (SCTV)" (1976-1981)
Harold Ramis was the head writer on the groundbreaking television series during its first season (1976-1977) and a contributing writer for several seasons following, credited with no less than 48 episodes. The sketch comedy show launched the careers of John Candy, Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy, whom Ramis would go on to work with on various feature film projects, as well as Catherine O'Hara, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin and Dave Thomas.
2. "National Lampoon's Animal House" (1978)
Ramis, Douglas Kennedy and Chris Miller collaborated on the screenplay for what might still be the best-ever college comedy of all time, a rambunctious ode to 'academic anarchy' that led to every other dorm room in the country having a poster of John Belushi on the wall (a tradition that continues to this day). Toga.
3. "Meatballs" (1979)
Ramis's first big-screen collaboration (he co-wrote the screenplay) with director Ivan Reitman and star Bill Murray was this cute summer camp comedy, with Murray delivering wildly incoherent yet undeniably rousing motivational speeches as the camp's fun-loving head counselor, Tripper Harrison. Followed by three sequels, but this is the only one that matters.
4. "Caddyshack" (1980)
Ramis directed his pal Bill Murray for the first time in this 'slobs vs. snobs' comedy, with Murray stealing the show from the likes of Chevy Chase and Ted Knight as Carl, a mumbling, dim-witted groundskeeper who wages battle with a mischievous gopher that occasionally dances to Kenny Loggins. Ramis would later re-collaborate with co-star Rodney Dangerfield ("It's the dance of the living dead!") as one of the screenwriters on "Back to School" (1986).
5. "Stripes" (1981)
Ramis worked (played) with director Ivan Reitman and star Bill Murray again with this oft-quoted comedy about two slackers who decide to enlist in the U.S. Army to have a little fun and meet some girls (?). Military hijinks ensue (co-written by Ramis with Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum), some of which involve John Candy, John Larroquette and the rather awe-inspiring Warren Oates as Sgt. Hulka.
6. "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983)
Ramis' second feature directing gig was this classic road comedy written by John Hughes, with "Caddyshack" star Chevy Chase taking on his most popular role for what would end up being the first of many times: Clark Griswold, a well-meaning suburban patriarch who packs up his wife, son, daughter and even Aunt Edna and hits the holiday road en route to Walley World. John Candy pops up in this one, too, as a security guard forced to make the whole trip worthwhile when the Griswolds arrive at a theme park that's closed for two weeks for repairs (always check the Internet before leaving! Oh, right ...)
7. "Ghostbusters" (1984)
"I collect spores, molds and fungus." Harold Ramis was the most dryly amusing of the Ghostbusters as Egon Spengler, the egghead scientist who once tried to drill a hole through his head and used a Twinkie as a way to measure the amount of paranormal activity in New York City. Ramis co-wrote the screenplay with co-star Dan Aykroyd, even though Bill Murray (sometimes exhaustingly) ad-libbed his way through most of it.
8. "Back to School" (1986)
Ramis was one of several credited screenwriters on this comedy that really was just an excuse to provide a vague narrative from which to attach a barrage of Rodney Dangerfield one-liners. It works, though, with the veteran comedian bringing the charm as a self-made millionaire who enrolls in college as a way to encourage his son and fellow student (Keith Gordon). Ramis was also a head writer on "The Rodney Dangerfield Show: It's Not Easy Bein' Me" (1982) and receives story credit for the rather bizarre "Rover Dangerfield" (1991).
9. "Baby Boom" (1987)
Ramis had a rare acting-only gig with this yuppie comedy starring Diane Keaton as an NYC career woman whose life is thrown into turmoil — and then transcendence — when she inherits a baby girl from a distant relative. Ramis plays her yuppie boyfriend who doesn't take too kindly to the invading toddler, taking a hike so she can later hook up with Sam Shepard.
10. "Groundhog Day" (1993)
"Caddyshack" and "Vacation" are terrific, but Ramis' best-ever work as a director is this now-classic comedy that marks his final collaboration with star Bill Murray. Super-dark and ultra-funny, "Groundhog Day" is a class act as it mixes existential ponderences with big laughs, though unfortunately the frequent on-set clashing between Murray and Ramis (mostly over the film's tone and themes) ended their working relationship ... and damaged their personal one as well.
11. "As Good As It Gets" (1997)
Ramis brought warmth and compassion to his role as Dr. Martin Bettes, a sort of guardian angel figure who becomes the specialist physician for the asthmatic son of working class waitress Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt). While Ramis brings a sly humor to his role, it's nice to see him showing off his more dramatic chops as well in this Oscar-winning film from director James L. Brooks.
12. "Analyze This" (1999)
There have been many self-parody projects for Robert De Niro over the past 15 years, but the only one really worth a damn is this mob comedy directed by Ramis in which a shrink with his own share of problems (Billy Crystal) ends up getting involved in the life of his latest — and most challenging — patient, a gangster on the verge of a nervous breakdown (De Niro). "Analyze This" was a box office hit, scoring over $176 million at the box office — which guaranteed its unfortunately far inferior sequel, "Analyze That" (2002).
13. "The Office" (2006-2013)
Ramis directed four episodes of the long-running NBC comedy based on Ricky Gervais' short-running BBC comedy: "A Benihana Christmas" (2006), "Safety Training" (2007), "Beach Games" (2007) and "The Delivery: Part 2" (2010). NPR ranked "Beach Games" as #6 (tied with "The Job") in its list of the series' 10 Best Episodes upon its ending after its ninth season in May 2013.
14. "Knocked Up" (2007)
Director Judd Apatow got to work with one of his personal heroes in "Knocked Up," with Ramis taking on the (mostly improvised) role of Ben's Dad, sharing at least one great father-son scene with Seth Rogen. "When I was 15, I interviewed Harold for my high school radio station, and he was the person that I wanted to be when I was growing up," said Apatow, who also produced Ramis' final feature directing gig, "Year One" (2009). "His work is the reason why so many of us got into comedy. We grew up on 'Second City TV' and 'Ghostbusters,' 'Vacation,' 'Animal House,' 'Stripes,' 'Meatballs' ... he literally made every single one of our favorite movies."