Ramis in October 2009
|Born||Harold Allen Ramis
November 21, 1944
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Alma mater||Washington University in St. Louis|
|Occupation||Actor, director, writer|
|Home town||Chicago, Illinois|
|Spouse(s)||Anne Plotkin (1967–1984)
Erica Mann (1989–present)
Harold Allen Ramis (born November 21, 1944) is an American 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), both of which he co-wrote. 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 television series SCTV (in which he also performed), and one of three screenwriters for the film National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).
Early life and career
Ramis was born in Chicago, Illinois, 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 Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School and Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago, and, in 1966, from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was 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
...prepared me well for when I went out to Hollywood to work with actors. People laugh when I say that, but it was actually very good training. And not just with actors; it was good training for just living in the world. It's knowing how to deal with people who might be reacting in a way that's connected to anxiety or grief or fear or rage. As a director, you’re dealing with that constantly with actors. But if I were a businessman, I’d probably be applying those same principles to that line of work.
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, California 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 Homes. 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 started 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's newspaper writing led to his becoming joke editor at Playboy. "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's frequent future collaborator, Bill Murray, to New York City 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/SCTV station manager Maurice "Moe" Green, amiable cop Officer Friendly, exercise guru Swami Bananananda, board chairman Allan "Crazy Legs" Hirschman, and home dentist Mort Finkel. His celebrity impressions on SCTV include Kenneth Clark and Leonard Nimoy.
Ramis left SCTV to pursue a film career and wrote a script with National Lampoon magazine's Douglas Kenney which would eventually become National Lampoon's Animal House. They were later joined by a third collaborator on the script, Chris Miller. The 1978 film followed the struggle between a rowdy college fraternity house and the college dean. The film's humor was raunchy for its time. Animal House "broke all box-office records for comedies" and earned $141 million.
Ramis next co-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's 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 comedy 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) and solidified plans to reprise his role in the proposed Ghostbusters III. His later film Groundhog Day has been called "Ramis' 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. He reportedly took a greatly reduced salary of $1 million to make "The Ice Harvest".
In an interview in the documentary 'American Storytellers,' Ramis said he hoped to make a film about Emma Goldman (even pitching Disney with the idea of having Bette Midler star) but that none of the movie studios are interested and that it would be difficult to raise the funding.
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 second wife, Erica Mann (the daughter of director Daniel Mann and actress Mary Kathleen Williams). Actor and Ghostbusters co-star Bill Murray is Violet Ramis's godfather. Ramis is an avid Chicago Cubs fan and goes to games every year to conduct the Seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field.
Awards and honors
Ramis's films have influenced 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.
|1976–1977||Second City TV||Various Characters||Television series, series regular|
|1981||Stripes||Russell Ziskey||Also Writer|
|Heavy Metal||Zeke||Voice only, animated|
|1982||SCTV Network 90||Various Characters||Television series, guest star|
|1983||National Lampoon's Vacation||Marty Moose||Voice only
|1984||Ghostbusters||Dr. Egon Spengler||Also Writer|
|1987||Baby Boom||Steven Bochner|
|1988||Stealing Home||Alan Appleby|
|1989||Ghostbusters II||Dr. Egon Spengler||Also Writer|
|1990||The Earth Day Special||Dr. Elon Spengler|
|1993||Groundhog Day||Neurologist||Also Writer/Director/Producer|
|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||Also Writer/Director/Co-Producer|
|Ghostbusters: The Video Game||Dr. Egon Spengler||Voice and likeness
- Caddyshack (1980)
- National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) (screenplay by John Hughes)
- Club Paradise (1986)
- Groundhog Day (1993)
- Stuart Saves His Family (1995) (screenplay by Al Franken)
- Multiplicity (1996) (screenplay by Chris Miller, Mary Hale, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel)
- Analyze This (1999)
- Bedazzled (2000)
- Analyze That (2002)
- The Ice Harvest (2005) (screenplay by Richard Russo and Robert Benton)
- The Office (2006) (TV)
- Year One (2009)
- Second City Television (1976–1979) (TV) - Associate Producer
- The Rodney Dangerfield Show: It's Not Easy Bein' Me (1982) (TV) - Producer
- The Top (1983) (TV) - Executive Producer
- Back to School (1986) - Executive Producer
- Armed and Dangerous (1986) - (Uncredited) Executive Producer
- Groundhog Day (1993) - Producer
- Multiplicity (1996) - Producer
- Bedazzled (2000) - Producer
- The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest (2002) - Executive Producer
- I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (2006) - Executive Producer
- Year One (2009) - Co-Producer
- The National Lampoon Radio Hour (1973–1974)
- The National Lampoon Show (1975) (Stage)
- Second City Television (1976–1979) (TV)
- National Lampoon's Animal House (with Doug Kenney and Chris Miller) (1978)
- Delta House (1979) (TV)
- Meatballs (with Dan Goldberg and Len Blum) (1979)
- Caddyshack (with Doug Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray) (1980)
- Stripes (with Dan Goldberg and Len Blum) (1981)
- The Rodney Dangerfield Show: It's Not Easy Bein' Me (1982) (TV)
- Ghostbusters (with Dan Aykroyd) (1984)
- Back to School (with Steven Kampmann, Will Porter and Peter Torokvei) (1986)
- Club Paradise (with Brian Doyle-Murray and Chris Miller) (1986)
- Armed and Dangerous (with Peter Torokvei) (1986)
- Caddyshack II (with Peter Torokvei) (1988)
- Ghostbusters II (with Dan Aykroyd) (1989)
- Rover Dangerfield (with Rodney Dangerfield) (1991)
- Groundhog Day (with Danny Rubin) (1993)
- Analyze This (with Kenneth Lonergan and Peter Tolan) (1999)
- Bedazzled (with Larry Gelbart and Peter Tolan) (2000)
- Analyze That (with Peter Tolan and Peter Steinfeld) (2002)
- Year One (with Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky) (2009)
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game (with Dan Aykroyd) (2009) (Video Game)
- Harold Ramis: Ghostbusters 3 by 2012
- 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.
- Kuczynski, Alex. "Groundhog Almighty", The New York Times, December 7, 2003, via Kenyon College Department of Religious Studies
- Chicago Public Schools Alumni: "Senn, Nicolas Senn High School
- 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
- Martin, Brett (July 2009). "Harold Ramis Gets the Last Laugh". GQ: 64–67, 124–25. Retrieved 2009-08-15.[dead link]
- 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 1-58115-062-8, ISBN 978-1-58115-062-9
- Lovece, Frank, "Ramis's realm: Comedy creator surveys career from Second City to 'Year One'", Film Journal International online, June 12, 2009
- Patkinkin, Sheldon. The Second City: Backstage at the World's Greatest Comedy Theater (Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2000) ISBN 1-57071-561-0, ISBN 978-1-57071-561-7. Page no.?
- Radio-program dates per Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site: "National Lampoon Radio Hour Shows" (fan site)
- Karp, Josh (2006). A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever. Chicago Review Press. p. 219. ISBN 1-55652-602-4.
- Caldwell, Kielson, p. 77
- Saito, Stephen "20 Movies Not Coming Soon to a Theater Near You", Section: "A Confederacy of Dunces", Premiere, no date
- 'Ghostbusters 3' in Theaters by Christmas 2012!
- Ghostbusters 3 shooting coming Summer
- Harold Ramis Says 'Ghostbusters 3' in 2011!
- "Daniel Mann, 79, the Director Of Successful Plays and Films". New York Times. November 23, 1991.
- St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees: Harold Ramis
- The character despite being played by Ramis is treated as the brother of Egon as proven at 0:19 in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-mK907DpKU
- Harold Ramis at the Internet Movie Database
- Henkel, Guido. "Anatomy of a Comedian: Harold Ramis", DVD Review, August 6, 1999
- Garfinkel, Perry. "And If He Sees His Shadow...", Shambhala Sun, July 2009 (excerpt)
- Harold Ramis Discusses Ghostbusters 3 at AMCtv.com
- Meatballs Movie Website