February has been incredibly unkind to actors. Thus far the shortest month has hit the acting world with four major deaths. Maximilian Schell, the Oscar-winning actor from Judgment At Nuremberg, died of pneumonia at age 83 on February 1. Philip Seymour Hoffman, another Oscar-winner (Capote), died of a suspected heroin overdose at the age of 46 on February 2. Shirley Temple Black, the world's most famous child actor, died February 10th of natural causes at age 85.
Yesterday (2/25) Harold Ramis died.
The others may have made more of a dramatic impression, but Harold Ramis was a movie maker of my generation, so I feel his loss more. And he made me laugh. Oh, did he make me laugh. From his work on National Lampoon albums (the riotous "Prison Farm" on Gold Turkey) to his directing, writing and acting in some of the classic comedies of the 1980's and 90's, Ramis was, as much as any person in Hollywood, the man holding the feather that tickled millions of funny bones.
Ramis was one of the co-writers of the landmark comedy Animal House. He starred in Stripes alongside longtime friend Bill Murray (a frequent star in films Ramis worked on as writer and/or director), the film about two buddies who join the Army together. Ramis' Russell Ziskey has his trials as an English instructor to immigrants (one of the best lines in the entire movie occurs while the credits are still rolling: when Russell asks if any of his students know even a little English, one man raises his hand and offers his knowledge of English: "Son of bitch (pronounced beech)! Shit (sheet)!"
From Ghostbusters to Groundhog Day to Analyze This, Ramis was busy working in front of the camera and behind it as director and writer. His goal was to make people laugh, and he accomplished it admirably.
Harold Ramis died of a autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disorder that enlarges the veins in the body, which he had suffered from for four years. He was 69.