Airplane! actor Graves dies aged 83
Published 15/03/2010 | 08:36
Peter Graves, the tall, stalwart actor perhaps best known for his portrayal of Jim Phelps, leader of a gang of special agents who battled evil conspirators in the long-running television series Mission: Impossible, died at 83.
Graves died of an apparent heart attack outside his Los Angeles home, publicist Sandy Brokaw said. He would have been 84 this week.
Graves had just returned from brunch with his wife and children and collapsed before he made it into the house, Brokaw said.
One of his daughters administered CPR but was unable to revive him. Graves' family doctor visited the house and believed he had a heart attack, Brokaw said.
Although Graves never achieved the stardom his older brother, James Arness, enjoyed as Marshal Matt Dillon on TV's Gunsmoke, he had a number of memorable roles in both films and television.
Normally cast as a hero, he turned in an unforgettable performance early in his career as the treacherous Nazi spy in Billy Wilder's 1953 prisoner-of-war drama Stalag 17.
He also masterfully lampooned his straight image when he portrayed bumbling airline pilot Clarence Oveur in the 1980 disaster movie spoof Airplane!
Graves appeared in dozens of films and a handful of television shows in a career of nearly 60 years. The authority and trust he projected made him a favourite for commercials late in his life, and he was often encouraged to go into politics.
"He had this statesmanlike quality," Brokaw said. "People were always encouraging him to run for office. But he said, 'I like acting. I like being around actors'."