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Ramis: One seriously funny entertainer

The death of Harold Ramis is sad news for anyone who likes to laugh. But his contributions to film went beyond the laughter of his more famous movies.

And many of his movies are famous. He wrote (or cowrote), directed or starred (or did them all) in “Ghostbusters” (“Who you gonna call?”), “Animal House” (“Seven years of college down the drain”), “Stripes” (“That’s the fact, Jack”), “Groundhog Day” (“I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February 2nd, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”), and “Analyze This” (“What is my goal here, to make you a happy, well-adjusted gangster?”), among others.

But Ramis, who was 69 when he died of an autoimmune disease, had another side. He could be a character actor whose brief appearances on the screen left you with a well-formed impression of the person he was playing. That’s what he did in “As Good As It Gets” (1997) in which he played an asthma specialist who treats Helen Hunt’s son. Hunt describes HMOs with some blurted-out profanities, then apologizes to the Ramis character. “It’s OK,” Ramis says, then delivers the next line almost to himself. “Actually, I think that’s their technical name.”

One of his more serious and more recent movies was “The Ice Harvest” (2005). The film, which Ramis directed, was about a mob lawyer (John Cusack) and a shady businessman (Billy Bob Thornton) who are trying to steal a lot of money from the Mafia.

It was a tribute to Ramis that actors like Cusack and Thornton would appear in a dark movie, which exposes the hypocrisy of many families, like “The Ice Harvest.” And the movie revealed that Ramis was about more than laughs. And that’s the fact, Jack.