We lost another great one this past week, as Harold Ramis died on Monday. As children of the 1980s, we here at the Main Damie were each saddened by his death. An underrated comedic talent, Ramis was often the man behind the curtain with some of the greatest comedies of all-time. This week, we’re picking our favorite movies in which Harold Ramis had a hand in. He will be missed. Once again, there’s no poll this week, but feel free to comment about Harold Ramis and your favorite Ramis film.
Dan’s Pick – Caddyshack
Whatever I’m going to write here isn’t going to give the late Harold Ramis justice, not by a long shot. The best that I can do here is try and describe how brilliant he was and how great an influence he was not only on me, but the rest of Hollywood as a whole. While I was talking to my friends here and we tried to pick our favorite screenplays by Ramis, we all came to pretty much the same conclusion: how the hell can you just pick one? The man was definitely ahead of his time, with such classics as Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Animal House. The list goes on and on and I wish I could cover all of them, but for this article I’m going to focus on Caddyshack.
It was tough to fully appreciate Caddyshack as a child, being that I was unable to pick up on all the sex and drug innuendos(Wanna tie me up with some of your ties, Ty?)but despite my age I still knew that some of those scenes were hilarious. The synchronized swimming by all of the caddies, and of course the Cinderella Story. Caddyshack‘s main strength was having some of the best comedic talent ever assembled, and most of them in their prime. Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Chevy Chase, and of course Bill Murray are just a few of the stars of this movie, and they all mesh perfectly together. If I had a time machine I would certainly go back to the filming of Caddyshack in order to experience what being with all of those comedic geniuses would be like, and to see if they actually knew what they were putting together was going to be the things of comedy legend.
I remember after watching Caddyshack with my father him telling me that Egon (I only knew Harold Ramis as Egon at that point) had written it, and thinking how truly talented he must have been to write two of the greatest comedies I had seen up to that point (Ghostbusters being the other one). And that still stands true to this day, both of those movies are the cornerstones in both comedic acting and comedic writing, and they will more than stand the test of time. Like I said, I can’t do Mr. Ramis justice, but I know how much of an impact he has had on my life and the world is truly a less funny place without him.
Mark’s Pick – Animal House
The word genius is thrown around a lot today, and is used to describe anything from a scientist that makes a discovery to a bro in a fraternity switching the beer from Natty Light to PBR. But the world was reminded this week what the true meaning of genius is as it mourned the death of the most influential comedy writer/director/actor of the last 40 years, Harold Ramis. Most people probably recognized him most from his iconic role as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters, but Ramis’ talent had already made a huge impact on the world of film years before he battled a giant marshmallow man. That is why my choice for No. 1 Ramis screenplay is a film he had written six years before, Animal House.
Animal House was the first time I realized how much of a genius Ramis was as a writer. Sure, I had seen Stripes, Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters prior to watching the antics of Delta House, but I never truly understood how much of an impact he had until then. His words have been recited so many times that they have become embedded in our everyday language, and are repeated by people that don’t even know that he is the original source material. That kind of impact is very rare and can only be found among the greats in cinema history, and even then some of their credits are not as well known as Ramis’. Even the Epstein Brothers (Casablanca, Arsenic and Old Lace), had only two films that are recognizable to anyone that is not a movie nerd.
It is almost impossible to imagine writing two all-time great films, let alone six (Stripes, Ghostbusters, Animal House, Caddyshack, Back to School and Groundhog Day). But it is the one that started it all which stays in my heart. Those other five movies would not have existed without Animal House — ok, maybe they would have but not in the way we know them today. Can I say with 100% certainty that it is the best script Ramis ever wrote? No, but I do know that it is the only one that created a genre. There would be no Porky’s, no Fast Times at Ridgemont High, no Bachelor Party, and no Old School without Animal House. And to me, that make it my No. 1 screenplay that Harold Ramis ever wrote. It is even enough to forgive Year One, but just barely.
Anthony’s Pick – Ghostbusters
One night, contributor Mark, my girlfriend, and myself gathered for drinks and dinner. Afterwards, Mark and I drank about half of a bottle of Gentleman Jack while we watched Spaceballs. We probably got about an hour into it when we realized that Rick Moranis was in Ghostbusters and we should probably watch that instead. And we did. Until 4:30 am.
As editor, I usually don’t pull rank during our Number 1’s. I’ll usually be the last person to make a selection, just in case there happens to be conflicts during the picking process. Not this time. While there are plenty of films in Ramis’ filmography that are perfectly worthy candidates, picking anything other than Ghostbusters would be doing to discount exactly what that movie has meant to me during my 28 years of existence. The fact that Caddyshack or Animal House or Groundhog Day could be a distant second to any other film is a testament to Ramis’ career.
In a lifetime of watching movies, there isn’t a single movie that I’ve seen more times than Ghostbusters. A close second? Probably Ghostbusters 2, so that just shows you how much I enjoy these films. I consider myself a comedy fan and I’ve dabbled in my own comedy writing, so when I had the original Ghostbusters on repeat while I was a child, there’s no telling how much influence Ramis had on my comedic sensibilities.
Harold Ramis is an underrated talent in the grand scheme of filmmaking, but looking back on the films of the 1980s, you could argue that it was a time of a comedic golden age and that Ramis and his work his a big reason for such an era. A generation of film fans have grown up with his movies and hopefully, his influence can usher in another era of great comedy.
With Ghostbusters, you have some of the greatest comedic minds hitting their absolute prime, coming together to make what could only be described as the perfect comedy. It’s rare for a movie to have such broad appeal that it can be a great film to expose a young child to and thirty-years later, that same kid can go back and get just as much enjoyment out of it, if not more.
Thank you, Harold Ramis. You’ve given us all countless hours of entertainment and your contributions to the comedy genre has made anyone that fancies themselves a comedy fan better.