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Mission: Impossible: Peter Graves Dies at 83

Peter GravesBeloved actor Peter Graves passed away on Sunday from a heart attack. He had just returned home from having brunch with his family when he collapsed. He was four days shy of celebrating his 84th birthday.

Graves had an interest in performing from an early age and became a radio announcer in Minnesota while still in high school. Following two and a half years in the Air Force, he entered the University of Minnesota as a drama major and played in summer stock.

During his 20s, Graves made his living as a radio actor and then moved to Hollywood where he appeared in movies like Stalag 17, The Night of the Hunter, and The Long Gray Line. He later went on to parody his serious leading man persona in the popular Airplane! movies.

It was on television however that Graves left a truly indelible legacy. The younger brother of Gunsmoke’s James Arness, Graves became well known to children of the 1950s playing rancher Jim Newton on NBC’s Saturday morning series, Fury.

He followed that up with regular roles on Whiplash and Court Marshal before landing the role of spy team leader Jim Phelps on ABC’s successful Mission: Impossible. He played the role for six years and reprised it for two seasons when ABC revived the show during the 1988 writers strike.

He also guest starred on numerous other shows like 7th Heaven, Diagnosis Murder, The Golden Girls, Life with Lucy, and The Love Boat.

Graves became a regular host of BIO’s Biography series in the 1990s. The cable channel will run a tribute this evening. Abbe Raven, President and Chief Executive Officer of AETN, said “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Peter Graves, a true talent and longtime member of the AETN family. By lending his legendary talents to the program, Peter was integral in the early success of the Biography franchise.”

Barry Williams (The Brady Bunch) knew Graves and was inspired to begin acting after watching Fury. To read a nice tribute, click here.

What are your favorite memories of Peter Graves?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vicki Turner May 3, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Mr. Graves was a long time favorite of my father’s. Airplane was his fave movie because of Peter Graves doing such a terrific job in the movie. I also know he did use to watch the original and remake of Mission Impossible. He will be sadly missed.

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CJ WEST March 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I watched Peter Graves when I was a kid on Fury. He appeared to be a very kind soft spoken person in real life. He had a long career and Mission Impossible was lucky to get him from the second season on. I didn’t know for many years that he was the brother of my all time favorite TV actor James Arness. Its a shame they never acted together but I always felt there was a little sibling rivalry between them particularly after Arness wouldn’t appear on Graves This is your Life tribute and only send an audio comment. Graves did direct an episode of Gunsmoke.
I last saw Peter Graves on Cold Case, last season I believe. My sympathy to his family.

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