Beloved 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.
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.”