Remembering Harold Ramis

Sometimes you need to be in right place at the right time in order to make an impact on pop culture. Arguably, if you’re one of the lucky ones, it’s because you had help along the way. That’s true of actor/writer/director Harold Ramis (1944-2014), but boy, are we lucky to have had the films that he helped create.

In many ways, National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) could be seen as more of a John Hughes film than a Harold Ramis film since Hughes wrote it and he has a particular (and easily identifiable) style of storytelling. Regardless of whether one creative mind had the most control on the film, I appreciate Ramis’s filmmaking and I can’t tell you how many times I have had a smile on my face when watching Vacation’s opening credits, Christie Brinkley as the ultimate temptress of the American highways, Rusty’s first beer and the eventual arrival at Walley World.

Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989) wouldn’t be the great entertainment that they both are without all three guys, Ramis included. His character, Dr. Egon Spengler, is as comfortable with using Twinkies to explain scientific theories as he is at describing his hobbies and warning the guys about stream-crossing. Although I’ve also seen Ramis in the films Baby Boom (1987), Groundhog Day (1993) and Airheads (1994), the Ghostbusters pair are the films that introduced me to him and they are how I will best remember him as an actor. The NYC firehouse seen in Ghostbusters has a sign up in his honor and there is also a memorial, complete with the appropriate gastronomic reference.

Speaking of Groundhog Day, that is one title that has certainly been etched into the wall of the pantheon of great comedies. Comedy, drama and romance are handled so expertly in Groundhog Day that it’s no surprise why it’s considered a modern classic, one of those movies that people love to watch over and over. It probably wouldn’t be so great without Ramis’s direction and screenwriting, especially in the diner scene when Bill Murray’s character tries to convince Andie MacDowell of his unusual powers.

The later directorial efforts Analyze This (1999) and its sequel Analyze That (2002) show staying power. The former has so many memorable scenes, like “you’re very good, you,” the Freudian analysis scene and the “closure” scene, co-written by scribes Kenneth Lonergan and Peter Tolan. Later in his career, Ramis directed four episodes of the American TV version of “The Office”: “A Benihana Christmas” (2006), “Safety Training” (2007), “Beach Games” (2007) and “The Delivery: Part Two” (2010). I recall season three’s “Beach Games” as an especially good episode.

Let’s remember all these great things that Harold Ramis has done. Egon – but not forgotten.

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