Ghostbusters star Harold Ramis dies

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Actor and director Harold Ramis, pictured in December 2009 (AP) Actor and director Harold Ramis, pictured in December 2009 (AP)

Comedy actor, director and writer Harold Ramis, best known for his roles in hit films such as Ghostbusters and Stripes, has died after a four-year battle with an autoimmune disease, his talent agency said.

Ramis, 69, died early on Monday morning of complications from vasculitis, which causes inflammation and damage to blood vessels, said Chris Day, a spokesman at United Talent Agency. Ramis was surrounded by family and friends at his suburban Chicago home.

Ramis was a key factor in some of the biggest blockbuster comedies in the 1970s and 1980s.

He co-wrote Animal House, which starred John Belushi. He teamed up with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd on Ghostbusters, which Ramis co-starred in and helped write. He also co-wrote Meatballs and Caddy Shack, both of which starred Murray.

"The best comedy touches something that's timeless and universal in people," Ramis told the Associated Press in a 2009 story. "When you hit it right, those things last."

More recently, he directed Analyze This, starring Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro.

Aykroyd issued a statement saying he was "deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend ... May he now get the answers he was always seeking".

Ramis was born on November 21, 1944 in Chicago. He is survived by his wife, Erica Ramis; sons Julian and Daniel; daughter, Violet, and two grandchildren.

Bill Murray, who he co-starred alongside Ramis in several films, paid tribute in Time Magazine.

He said: "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."

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