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Harold Allen Ramis (born November 21, 1944) is an Americanmarker actor, director, and writer, specializing in comedy. His best-known film acting roles are as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters (1984) and Russell Ziskey in Stripes (1981); Ramis also co-wrote both films. As a writer/director, his films include the comedies Caddyshack (1980), Groundhog Day (1993), and Analyze This (1999). Ramis was the original head writer of the TV series SCTV (in which he also performed), and one of three writers to pen the screenplay for the film National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).

Early life and career

Ramis was born in Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker, the son of Ruth (née Cokee) and Nathan Ramis, shopkeepers who owned the store Ace Food & Liquor Mart on the city's far North Side. He had a Jewish upbringing, although in his adult life he does not practice any organized religion. He graduated from Nicolas Senn High School in Chicago, and, in 1966, from Washington Universitymarker in St. Louis, Missourimarker, where he was as a member of the Alpha Xi chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.

Afterward, Ramis worked in a mental institution in St. Louis for seven months. He later said his time working there

He had begun writing parodic plays in college, saying years later, "In my heart, I felt I was a combination of Groucho and Harpo [Marx], of Groucho using his wit as a weapon against the upper classes, and of Harpo’s antic charm and the fact that he was oddly sexy — he grabs women, pulls their skirts off, and gets away with it". Avoiding the Vietnam War military draft by ingestion of methamphetamine to fail his draft physical, he married San Francisco, Californiamarker artist Anne Plotkin, with whom he would have a daughter, Violet, and eventually, years later, divorce.

Following his work in St. Louis, Ramis returned to Chicago, where by 1968, he was a substitute teacher at the inner-city Robert Taylor Homesmarker. He also became associated with the guerrilla television collective TVTV, headed by his college friend Michael Shamberg, and wrote freelance for the Chicago Daily News. "Michael Shamberg right out of college had stated freelancing for newspapers and got on as a stringer for a local paper, and I thought, 'Well, if Michael can do that, I can do that'. I wrote a spec piece and submitted it to the Chicago Daily News, the Arts & Leisure section, and they started giving me assignments [for] entertainment features. Additionally, he had begun studying and performing with Chicago's Second City improvisational comedy troupe.

Ramis' newspaper writing led to his becoming joke editor at Playboy [magazine]. "I called a guy named Michael Lawrence just cold and said I had written several pieces freelance and did they have any openings. And they happened to have their entry-level job, party jokes editor, open. He liked my stuff and he gave me a stack of jokes that readers had sent in and asked me to rewrite them. I had been in Second City in the workshops already and Michael Shamberg and I had written comedy shows in college".

National Lampoon and SCTV

After leaving Second City for a time and returning in 1972, having been replaced in the main cast by John Belushi, Ramis worked his way back as Belushi's deadpan foil. In 1974, Belushi brought Ramis and other Second City performers, including Ramis' frequent future collaborator, Bill Murray, to New York Citymarker to work together on the radio program The National Lampoon Radio Hour (which ran November 1973 to December 1974).

During this time, Ramis, Belushi, Murray, Joe Flaherty, Christopher Guest, and Gilda Radner starred in the revue The National Lampoon Show, the successor to National Lampoon's Lemmings. Later, Ramis became a performer on, and head writer of, the late-night sketch-comedy television series SCTV during its first three years (1976-1979). Characterizations by Ramis on SCTV include corrupt Dialing for Dollars host Moe Green, amiable cop Officer Friendly, exercise guru Swami Banananda, board chairman Allan "Crazy Legs" Hirschman, and home dentist Mort Finkel. His celebrity impressions on SCTV include Kenneth Clark and Leonard Nimoy.

Film success

Ramis left SCTV to pursue a film career, writing, with National Lampoon magazine's Douglas Kenney, the script for what would become National Lampoon's Animal House; they were later joined by a third writer, Chris Miller. The 1978 film followed the struggle between a rowdy college fraternity house and the college dean. Its humor was raunchy for its time. Animal House "broke all box-office records for comedies" and earned $141 million.

Ramis next wrote the comedy Meatballs, starring Bill Murray. The movie was a commercial success and became the first of six film collaborations between Murray and Ramis. His third film and his directorial debut was Caddyshack, which he wrote with Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray. The film starred Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray. Like Ramis' previous two films, Caddyshack was also a commercial success.

In 1982, Ramis was attached to direct the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. The film was to star John Belushi and Richard Pryor, but the project was aborted. In 1984, Ramis collaborated with Dan Aykroyd on the screenplay for Ghostbusters, which became one of the biggest hits of the summer, in which he also starred as Dr. Egon Spengler, a role he reprised for the 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II (which he also co-wrote with Aykroyd). His later film, Groundhog Day, has been called "Ramis's masterpiece”.

His films were noted for attacking "the smugness of institutional life ... with an impish good [will] that is unmistakably American". They are also noted for "Ramis's signature tongue-in-cheek pep talks”. Sloppiness and improv are also important aspects of his work. Ramis frequently depicts the qualities of "anger, curiosity, laziness, and woolly idealism" in "a hyper-articulate voice".

In 2004, he turned down the opportunity to direct the Bernie Mac-Ashton Kutcher film Guess Who, then under the working title "The Dinner Party", because he considered it to be poorly written. That same year, Ramis began filming the low-budget The Ice Harvest, "his first attempt to make a comic film noir". Ramis spent six weeks trying to get the film greenlit because he had difficulty reaching an agreement about stars John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton's salaries. The film received a mixed reaction. His typical directing fee, as of 2004, is $5 million.

Personal life

Ramis has three children. His daughter Violet was born in 1977 with his first wife, Anne, and sons Julian Arthur (born May 10 1990) and Daniel Hayes (born August 10 1994), with his wife, Erica Mann. Actor Bill Murray is Violet Ramis' godfather.

Awards and honors

In 2004, Ramis was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Legacy

Ramis's films have had an impact on subsequent generations of comedians and comedy writers. Filmmakers Jay Roach, Jake Kasdan, Adam Sandler, and Peter and Bobby Farrelly have cited his films as amongst their favorites.

Filmography

Acting

Year Film Role Notes
1976-1977 Second City TV Various Characters Television series, series regular
1981 Stripes Russell Ziskey
Heavy Metal Zeke Voice only, animated
1982 SCTV Network 90 Various Characters Television series, guest star
1983 National Lampoon's Vacation Cop at Wally World Voice only, uncredited
1984 Ghostbusters Dr. Egon Spengler
1987 Baby Boom Steven Bochner
1988 Stealing Home Alan Appleby
1989 Ghostbusters II Dr. Egon Spengler
1993 Groundhog Day Neurologist
1994 Airheads Chris Moore
Love Affair Sheldon Blumenthal
1997 As Good as It Gets Dr. Martin Bettes
2000 High Fidelity Rob's Dad Scenes deleted
2002 Orange County Don Durkett
2006 The Last Kiss Professor Bowler
2007 Knocked Up Ben's Dad
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story L’Chai’m
2009 Year One Adam
2009 Ghostbusters the Video Game Dr. Egon Spengler Voice and likeness


Directing, writing and production

Year Film Notes
1976-1978 Second City TV (Television series) Head writer
1978 National Lampoon's Animal House Writer
1979 Meatballs Writer
1980 Caddyshack Writer, director
1981 Stripes Writer
1982 The Rodney Dangerfield Show: It's Not Easy Bein' Me (Television series) Head writer, producer
1983 National Lampoon's Vacation Director
1984 Ghostbusters Writer
1986 Back to School Screenplay
Club Paradise Screenplay, Director
Armed and Dangerous Story, screenplay, uncredited as executive producer
1988 Caddyshack II Writer
1989 Ghostbusters II Writer
1991 Rover Dangerfield Story
1993 Groundhog Day Screenplay, director, producer
1995 Stuart Saves His Family Director
1996 Multiplicity Director, producer
1999 Analyze This Writer, director
2000 Bedazzled Screenplay, director, producer
2002 Analyze That Writer, director
The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest Executive Producer
2005 The Ice Harvest Director
2006-2007 The Office (Television series) Director, episodes:
"A Benihana Christmas", “Safety Training", "Beach Games"
2007 I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With Executive Producer
My Suicide aka Buster's Class Project Executive Producer
Atlanta (Television pilot) Director
2009 Year One Story, screenplay, director, producer
2009 Ghostbusters the Video Game Writer


References

  1. Kuczynski, Alex. "Groundhog Almighty", The New York Times, December 7, 2003, via Kenyon College Department of Religious Studies
  2. Chicago Public Schools Alumni: "Senn, Nicolas Senn High School
  3. Sacks, Mike. And Here's the Kicker...: Conversations with Top Humor Writers About Their Craft (Writer's Digest Books, July 2009). Online excerpt from Harold Ramis interview
  4. Caldwell, Sara C., and Marie-Eve S. Kielson, So You Want to be A Screenwriter: How to Face the Fears and Take the Risks (Allworth Press, 2000), p. 75. ISBN 1581150628, ISBN 978-1581150629
  5. Lovece, Frank, "Ramis' realm: Comedy creator surveys career from Second City to 'Year One'", Film Journal International online, June 12, 2009
  6. Patkinkin, Sheldon. The Second City: Backstage at the World's Greatest Comedy Theater (Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2000) ISBN 1570715610, ISBN 978-1570715617. Page no.?
  7. Radio-program dates per Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site: "National Lampoon Radio Hour Shows" (fan site)
  8. Karp, Josh. A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever (Chicago Review Press, 2006), p. 219. ISBN 1556526024, ISBN 978-1556526022
  9. Caldwell, Kielson, p. 77
  10. Saito, Stephen "20 Movies Not Coming Soon to a Theater Near You", Section: "A Confederacy of Dunces", Premiere, no date
  11. Friend, Tad. " Comedy First: How Harold Ramis’s movies have stayed funny for twenty-five years.", The New Yorker, 2004-04-19. Retrieved on August 28, 2007.
  12. St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees: Harold Ramis
  13. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000601/


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