'Ghostbuster' writer, actor Harold Ramis dies
CHICAGO (AP) — Harold Ramis, the bespectacled "Ghostbusters" sidekick to Bill Murray whose early grounding in live comedy led to blockbuster movies such as "National Lampoon's Animal House," ''Caddyshack" and "Groundhog Day," died Monday. He was 69.
Ramis, who suffered for several years from an autoimmune disease that caused inflammation and damage to his blood vessels, died at his home in the Chicago suburbs, surrounded by family and friends, his talent agency said.
Perhaps his greatest legacy is his influence on generations of comedians, actors and directors due to his ability to infuse comedy with a broader, sometimes spiritual message, said Andrew Alexander, president and CEO of The Second City. Ramis got his start with the Chicago-based improvisational comedy theater, along with future co-stars Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Murray.
"There was always a nuanced meaning to his pictures," Alexander said, including an "almost Buddhist philosophy to 'Groundhog Day'" — a movie Ramis co-wrote and directed that tells the story of a man who re-lives the same day over and over as he examines his life.
FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2009 file photo, actor and director Harold Ramis walks the Red Carpet as he arrives to celebrate The Second City's 50th anniversary in Chicago. An attorney for Ramis said the actor died Monday morning, Feb. 24, 2014, from complications of autoimmune inflammatory disease. He was 69. Ramis is best known for his roles in the comedies "Ghostbusters" and "Stripes." (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
"He was a generous, nurturing, humble guy," Alexander added.
Aykroyd issued a statement Monday, saying he was "deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend ... May he now get the answers he was always seeking."
Ramis joined The Second City in 1969, and in 1976 became head writer for the Canadian-based comedy show Second City Television, or SCTV.
He soon moved on to bigger projects — the legendary 1978 blockbuster film "National Lampoon's Animal House," which starred fellow Second City alum John Belushi.
With Murray as the comic lead, the Second City alums paired up for numerous projects: Ramis co-wrote 1979's "Meatballs" and co-wrote and directed 1980's "Caddyshack."
But the most well-known of their collaborations was "Ghostbusters," which also features Aykroyd. Ramis helped write the 1984 movie, in which he stars as Egon Spengler, the brainy, commonsense member of a group of parapsychologists who try to catch ghosts.