In my household, the late Harold Ramis was a God.
As a director, writer and actor, his CV is a collection of my favourite movies growing up. Caddyshack, Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and National Lampoon’s Vacation. If he had played a wise-cracking jeep driver in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade he would have filled the list.
There is a story in my family that, as an eight year-old, whenever my parents couldn’t find me they would go to the spare room, which had a TV. Without fail I would be sitting in front of it in deep concentration, only willing to use hand signals to explain what I was watching.
Usually it was Caddyshack, which was signalled with a stubby finger reaching for the sky. Occasionally two fingers would appear, to signal the viewing of its poorly-received sequel, a film Ramis regretted but I loved all the same. The viewing of Animal House was usually accompanied with a meek apology, as I turned it off and then waited for the footsteps to distance so I could turn it back on again.
As a tribute to the great Harold Ramis we look at some of the greatest moments from his greatest movies, along with a literary piece that I believe either inspired him or, more likely, he inspired. Even more proof that Ramis’ reach extended far beyond a half naked John Candy in Stripes.
Accompanying Piece: The Turn of the Screw
When an inexperienced governess goes to work at Bly, a country house in Essex to look after a young boy Miles and his sister Flora, all manner of strange events begin to occur. The governess begins to spot a ghostly man and woman around the grounds and is told by the housekeeper that they are the ghosts of the valet and the previous governess.
It soon becomes clear that the children are inexplicably connected to these ghosts in some way and the young governess struggles to protect the children, although from exactly what, she is not sure.
Accompanying Piece: Catch-22
Set in the closing months of World War II in an American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, Catch-22 is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he has never even met keep trying to kill him.
Joseph Heller’s bestselling novel is a hilarious and tragic satire on military madness, and the tale of one man’s efforts to survive it.
Accompanying Piece: The Grapes of Wrath
Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.
Steinbeck famously said, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags,”, with The Grapes of Wrath winning a large following among the working class due to Steinbeck’s sympathy to the workers’ movement and his accessible prose style.
Accompanying Piece: The Adventures of Augie March
A penniless and parentless Chicago boy growing up in the Great Depression, Augie March drifts through life latching on to a wild succession of occupations, including butler, thief, dog-washer, sailor and salesman. He is a ‘born recruit’, easily influenced by others who try to mould his destiny. Not until he tangles with the glamorous Thea, a huntress with a trained eagle, can he attempt to break free.
A modern day everyman on an odyssey in search of reality and identity, Augie March is the star of star performer in a richly observed human variety show, a modern-day Columbus in search of reality and fulfilment.
Accompanying Piece: Life After Life
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life?
Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny?
And would you even want to?
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to the Booktopia Blog. When not reading and writing he enjoys fast food and a slow metabolism.
You can follow Andrew’s ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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