What made Harold Ramis and his collaboration with Bill Murray so special was the irreverence that was infused into their films. Whether it was the country club in Caddyshack, the military in Stripes, or the Greek system in Animal House, there was a gulf between those who played by society’s rules, and the heroes of his movies. The wider the gap between them, the funnier things were onscreen.
Tonight’s Oscar awards treated us to one last act of irreverence. When Bill Murray was introduced and walked out onto the stage with Amy Adams on his arm, my first thought was that maybe he would mention his friend and collaborator. I knew–and I’m sure that he did, too–that Ramis was going to be included in the “In Memoriam” clip that gets put together each year, to commemorate the actors and other film people who died over the previous year. We would get to see his face and a few seconds of his work, but we wouldn’t hear his name. And this just wouldn’t do, for a career as accomplished as his was.
So Bill Murray took matters into his own hands. Once the nominees for Best Cinematography had been read, Murray stepped in and added Ramis’ name for his work on Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day. The audience applauded, and whoever actually won the award didn’t seem to matter very much at that moment. Murray had slipped in Ramis’ name, and that was something special for us, and I’m sure that it was for Murray, too.
It had been reported that Murray and Ramis had been estranged from each other for many years, until Murray recently visited his old pal on what turned out to be his deathbed. What they talked about may never be known, but Murray had to know that an appearance on the Oscars was upcoming for him. Did he tell Ramis about his plan to mention his name on the show? Or did he only hatch out the plan after Ramis had passed away? I’d love to know what the answer is, but either way, it took some guts for Murray to depart from the script like that.
Whether tonight was the final collaboration between Bill Murray and Harold Ramis or not, movies won’t ever be the same again. I’m grateful for the movies that they left behind, and hope that Bill Murray gives us some more laughs before his time comes, whenever that may be.