Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
Comic actor, writer, and director Harold Ramis passed away early this morning from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare blood vessel disease. Ramis was born in 1944, the son of Chicago grocery store owners. After attending Washington University in St. Louis (his time in a fraternity there partly inspired Animal House) and working briefly in a mental institution, Ramis moved back to Chicago and began taking classes at Second City. It was there that he met frequent collaborators Bill Murray and John Belushi. Ramis’s first break came in 1974, when Belushi brought him to work on The National Lampoon Radio Hour. Working there, Ramis met Doug Kenney and Chris Miller, his co-writers on National Lampoon’s Animal House, the film that put Ramis on track to becoming one of the biggest comic forces of a generation. Ramis’s filmography includes classics Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day. His last picture was 2009’s Year One. Ramis and his work were a major influence on anyone who has made comic films in the past two decades. Judd Apatow, for one, said Ramis was who he wanted to be growing up. (Ramis played Seth Rogen’s father in Knocked Up. Watch a scene here.) He was 69.
Update: Murray released a statement to TIME:
“Harold Ramis and I together did the National Lampoon Show off Broadway, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him.”