Monday, 24 February 2014

'E Gone

My favourite people keep dying. I guess that's what happens when you're a fan of older properties. This one knocked me for six, though. I wasn't aware that Harold Ramis was ill, but he'd been suffering from an immunodeficiency disease for several years, and with that, it's just a matter of time.

Naturally, like so many people, I'll remember Ramis best as Dr. Egon Spengler. Ghostbusters is one of my favourite films, has been for many years, and will remain so till the day I die. As a child, I lived and breathed Ghostbusters, and Egon was always my favourite. My favourite isn't coolest or funniest character, but the smartest. Egon was the genius behind the Ghostbusters, and so it's appropriate that Ramis played him, for his was the mind behind Ghostbusters. Of course, Dan Aykroyd co-wrote it with him, and naturally, he played Egon's partner in genius, Ray Stantz. They went on to write the underappreciated Ghostbusters II, and Ramis's final writing credit was, to the best of my knowledge, the Ghostbusters video game. He and Aykroyd said that the game should be viewed, for the time being at least, as Ghostbusters 3, and it looks like that's how it will have to remain. I can't see Ghostbusters without Egon.

Of course, there were more strings to Ramis's bow than Ghostbusters. Many regard Groundhog Day as his finest film, and it's certainly his cleverest. Like Ghostbusters, it's one of his many collaborations with Bill Murray, always the centre of the show, while Ramis wrote, produced, directed, and cameoed. It's very probably his best work, but there's so much more. This man directed the National Lampoon's Vacation, co-writing several sequel productions. There's Caddyshack, Analyse This and Analyse That, Stripes - Ramis was behind some of the finest American comedies of a twenty year stretch, from 1979-99. The less said about Bedazzled, the better really, but never mind.

There's even some evidence that Ramis might - might - have been in the running to play the Doctor. In 1991, the Canadian animation studio Nelvana pitched for the rights to produce a Doctor Who cartoon series. Rumours abound that the Doctor was to be voiced by Ramis, or failing that, Maurice LaMarche, who did a Harold Ramis impersonation as Egon in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. The concept art that has survived suggests that the Doctor would have been Egon in a Doctorish costume. Ramis as the Doctor - even if the show had been terrible, it would have been worth it for that.

Still, for all his accomplishments, so many more behind the camera than in front of it, Harold Ramis will, for so many of us, always be Egon.

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