Harold Ramis, whose cameo character provided the pro-life voice in the 2007 movie Knocked Up, died of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis Monday morning at his Chicago home, surrounded by family. Ramis was 69.
Judd Apatow, the writer, director and co-producer of Knocked Up said of Ramis, “When I was 15, I interviewed Harold for my high school radio station, and he was the person that I wanted to be when I was growing up.” Apatow cast Ramis as the father of Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), a pot-smoking goof-ball who impregnated Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) during a one-night stand. When Ben confided to his father (Ramis) about the pregnancy, the father exclaimed ecstatically that he was very happy to be a grandfather, in support of what would be Ben and Alison’s decision to avoid abortion and parent their baby together. Apaptow said that Harold Ramis generally improvised his dialogue in Knocked Up.
Knocked Up earned over seven times its investment of $30 million worldwide and was critically acclaimed, despite its lewd humor. Both Knocked Up and Juno, another comedic look at unplanned pregnancy (focusing on adoption), made the American Film Institute Awards list as two of the ten most influential American motion pictures of 2007.
Ramis said that, after watching up-close John Belushi’s very physical comedy, Ramis realized that his own talents should be geared toward playing the straight man or toward movie-making. Earlier in his career, Ramis co-starred in the 1987 comedy Baby Boom, wherein he played the dull investment banker boyfriend who broke up with Diane Keaton’s character when she decided to adopt her orphaned baby cousin. Brokenhearted, Keaton’s character left Manhattan for a quieter life in Vermont and found true love with a local veterinarian, played by Sam Shepard.
Writing credits for Ramis include National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), Stripes (1981), and Ghostbusters (1984), the last in which he co-starred. Apparently, Ghostbusters was a favorite movie of elementary school teachers of its day, because it had the children on the playground imitating the movie scenes by fighting invisible ghosts rather than by fighting each other. Ramis directed National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Groundhog Day (1993) and Analyze This (1999 ).
Groundhog Day has been acclaimed worldwide, notably by Buddhists, Catholics and Jews, as one of the most important spiritual movies ever made. In the movie the narcissistic weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) was stuck re-living—seemingly endlessly– Groundhog Day during a dreary blizzard in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. After long turns at vice, self-indulgence and despair, Phil finally learned that love is what makes every day new. As William Park at Catholicculture.org wrote, Phil “…begins to sanctify the time.”
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Ramis co-wrote, directed and performed in a cameo role in Groundhog Day, which initially received high critical acclaim, which has only grown over the years. Roger Ebert wrote that the movie seemed more substantial after repeated viewing. Bravo named it #32 of the 100 funniest movies. Even the anti-foundationalist (akin to moral relativist) Stanley Fish named Groundhog Day one of the 10 best films ever made for its comedic look at the self-making of a man. Buddhists see the movie as an example of spiritual transcendence, and Catholics may consider it as an illustration of purgatory-on-earth.
Harold Ramis is survived by his wife, daughter, two sons and two grandchildren.
LifeNews.com Note: Marianna Trzeciak, Esq., is a homeschooling mother of three who contributed to amicus briefs in the Rule 60 motions to overturn Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. She initiated 40 Days for Life—Burlington, Vermont. Now residing in Texas with her family, Ms. Trzeciak writes and speaks regarding pro-life issues.