Harold Ramis, the influential comedy director, writer, and actor who was best known for his performance as Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters, died Monday at his Chicago home of complications from auto-immune inflammatory vasculitis. He was 69.
Born in Chicago, Ramis cut his teeth as a writer and performer during stints with National Lampoon and SCTV in the 1970s. Ramis’ first major film credit came in 1978, when he collaborated with National Lampoon magazine staffers Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller on the screenplay for National Lampoon’s Animal House, a low budget frat house comedy that became a huge box office hit and a genre classic. He followed that triumph with a script for Meatballs, which starred National Lampoon collaborator Bill Murray; and Caddyshack, his directorial debut and a huge commercial success. Subsequently, Ramis wrote the script for Stripes (which also starred Murray) and directed National Lampoon’s Vacation, which starred Caddyshack‘s Chevy Chase.
Ramis’ most memorable performance was in Ghostbusters, playing Dr. Egon Spengler as a deadpan counterweight to Murray’s wisecracking Peter Venkman (he also collaborated on the script with co-star Dan Dan Aykroyd). In 1993, Ramis directed the critical and commercial hit Groundhog Day, his final collaboration with Murray. Subsequently, Ramis directed a few films that failed to equal his 1980s-1990s apex (his last directorial credit was Year One in 2009), but he appeared in a number of films in supporting roles, most memorably as Seth Rogan’s father in Knocked Up.
Ramis is survived by his wife Erica, as well as his three children and two grandchildren.