Graves in 1967
March 18, 1926
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||March 14, 2010
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Education||Southwest High School|
|Alma mater||University of Minnesota|
(m.1950–2010, his death)
Peter Aurness (March 18, 1926 – March 14, 2010), known professionally as Peter Graves, was an American film and television actor. He was best known for his starring role in the CBS television series Mission: Impossible from 1967 to 1973 (original) and from 1988 to 1990 (revival). His elder brother was actor James Arness (1923–2011).
Graves was born Peter Duesler Aurness in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a son of Methodist parents Rolf Cirkler Aurness (1894–1982), a businessman, and his wife Ruth (née Duesler, died 1986), a journalist. Graves' ancestry was Norwegian and German. The family name originally was "Aursnes," but when Rolf's Norwegian father, Peter Aursnes, immigrated to New York City in 1887, he changed the spelling. Peter used the stage name "Graves", a maternal family name. He used the name Graves to honor his mother's family, and also so as to not be confused with his older brother, James Arness, who was the star of the television series Gunsmoke.
Graves graduated from Southwest High School in 1944, and spent two years in the United States Army Air Forces near the end of World War II. He then enrolled at the University of Minnesota on the G.I. Bill, and was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Throughout Graves' career he appeared in more than seventy films, television shows, and television movies. In the 1950s, Graves joined the NBC television series Fury, as the rancher and adoptive single father, Jim Newton. Graves also was featured in the 1953 World War II film, Stalag 17. 
From 1960-61 Graves starred as leading character Christopher Cobb in 34 episodes of the TV series Whiplash. In the story line Cobb is an American who arrives in Australia in the 1850s to establish the country's first stagecoach line, using a bullwhip rather than a gun to fight the crooks that he encounters. The series also starred Anthony Wickert. Graves also starred in the British made ITC series Court Martial playing U.S. Army Lawyer Major Frank Whittaker (one of the series two American Leads starring opposite Bradford Dillman's Captain David Young ) as well as guest roles in such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Cimarron City, Route 66 and The Invaders,(episode; 'Moonshot') In 1967, Graves was recruited by Desilu Studios to replace Steven Hill as the lead actor on Mission: Impossible. Graves acted out the character of James Phelps, the sometimes-gruff director of the Impossible Missions Force or IMF, for the remaining six seasons of the series. After the series ended in 1973, Graves played a cameo-type support role in the feature film Sidecar Racers in Australia which was released in 1975. Graves also made a guest appearance in the teen soap opera Class of '74 in mid-1974, playing himself.
Graves was cast as Palmer Kirby in the 1983 ABC miniseries, The Winds of War. He played opposite Robert Mitchum, Jan Michael Vincent, Deborah Winters and Ali MacGraw in what became in '83, the second most watched miniseries of all time (after Roots). After playing mainly serious roles in the 1970s, he appeared as Captain Clarence Oveur in the early 80s comedies Airplane! and Airplane II: The Sequel.
In 1988 a Hollywood writers' strike resulted in a new Mission: Impossible series being commissioned. Graves was the only original cast member to return as a regular, reprising his role as James Phelps, though other original cast members (most notably Greg Morris, whose son Phil was a regular in this version) made guest appearances. The series was filmed in Australia, and Graves made his third journey there for acting work. The new version of Mission: Impossible lasted for two seasons, ending in 1990. Bookending his work on Mission: Impossible, Graves starred in two pilot films called Call to Danger, which were an attempt to create a Mission: Impossible-style series in which Graves played a government agent (the Bureau of National Resources) who recruited civilians with special talents for secret missions.
The 1960s version of the pilot, according to Patrick White in The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier (which White reports was actually the second such pilot, but Graves was not involved in the first), is credited with winning Graves the role of Phelps; after Mission: Impossible ended in 1973, Graves filmed a third version of the pilot (this one structured as a made-for-TV movie), but it did not sell as a series. The concept was later used in the brief 1980s adventure series Masquerade.
During the 1990s, he hosted and narrated the documentary series Biography on A&E. He also acted in a number of films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which subsequently featured running jokes about Graves's Biography work and presumed sibling rivalry with Arness. The films that have been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 include SST: Death Flight, It Conquered the World, Beginning of the End, Parts: The Clonus Horror, and an uncredited voiceover in The Eye Creatures. The film Killers from Space was featured in The Film Crew, Michael J. Nelson's follow-up to MST3K. Graves himself parodied his Biography work in the film Men in Black II, hosting an exposé television show. He also played Colonel John Camden on the television series 7th Heaven. In 1995, Graves starred with Charlton Heston, Mickey Rooney and Deborah Winters in the Warren Chaney docudrama, America: A Call to Greatness.
In the 1996 film update of Mission: Impossible, the character of Phelps (played by Jon Voight, Graves had refused to play the role) was re-imagined as a traitor who murders three fellow IMF agents only to be killed himself at the end of the film, a decision that disappointed Graves, as well as many fans of the original series. Some of these fans[who?] refused to believe that Voight's "Phelps" was the real James Phelps, and instead considered him an impostor who had deceptively assumed—and hence stolen—the real Phelps's identity.
AirTran Airways featured Graves in a series of web-only "Internetiquette" videos in 2009 in which Graves appeared in a pilot's uniform and references classic Airplane! lines. The videos were part of an AirTran Airways campaign to promote their in-flight wireless Internet access.
In the summer of 2009 Graves signed on as a spokesman for reverse mortgage lender American Advisors Group (AAG). Graves appeared in a national commercial in which he marketed reverse mortgages.
After returning from a brunch on March 14, 2010, Graves collapsed and died of a heart attack at the age of 83, four days before his 84th birthday. It was reported that one of his daughters attempted to revive him, but was unsuccessful.
Graves was awarded a Golden Globe Award in 1971 for his role as Jim Phelps in the series Mission: Impossible. He also received nominations for an Emmy Award and Golden Globe awards in other seasons of that show. Graves also won a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding informational series in 1997 as host of Biography.
- Up Front (1951)
- Fort Defiance (1951)
- The Congregation (1952)
- Red Planet Mars (1952)
- Stalag 17 (1953)
- War Paint (1953)
- East of Sumatra (1953)
- Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953)
- Killers from Space (1954)
- The Yellow Tomahawk (1954)
- The Raid (1954)
- Black Tuesday (1954)
- Fort Yuma (1955)
- The Long Gray Line (1955)
- Robbers' Roost (1955)
- Wichita (1955)
- Fury TV Series (1955 - 1960)
- The Naked Street (1955)
- The Night of the Hunter (1955)
- The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)
- It Conquered the World (1956)
- Hold Back the Night (1956)
- Canyon River (1956)
- Beginning of the End (1957)
- Bayou (1957)
- Death in Small Doses (1957)
- Wolf Larsen (1958)
- A Stranger in My Arms (1959)
- Whiplash (TV series) (1959–60)
- A Rage to Live (1965)
- Texas Across the River (1966)
- The Ballad of Josie (1967)
- Mission: Impossible vs. the Mob (1968) (compilation of both parts of the two-part Mission: Impossible episode "The Council" re-edited and released to European theaters)
- Sergeant Ryker (1968)
- The Five Man Army (1969)
- Call To Danger (1973) (TV movie)
- Where Have All The People Gone? (1974) (TV movie)
- Scream of the Wolf (1974)
- Sidecar Racers (1975)
- The Mysterious Monsters (1976) (documentary) (narrator)
- High Seas Hijack (1978) (in English version)
- Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident (1978) (also known as Teheran Incident and Cruise Missile)
- The Rebels (1979)
- The Clonus Horror (1979)
- Survival Run (1980)
- Airplane! (1980)
- The Guns and the Fury (1981)
- Savannah Smiles (1982)
- Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)
- The Winds of War (1983)
- Aces Go Places 3 (1984)
- Murder, She Wrote 1 episode (1984)
- Number One with a Bullet (1987)
- War and Remembrance (1988)
- The Golden Girls 1 episode Mother Load (1991)
- Addams Family Values (1993)
- The Unexplained: Witches, Werewolves & Vampires (1994) (documentary) (narrator)
- 7th Heaven 11 episodes (1996–2007)
- House on Haunted Hill (1999)
- Men in Black II (2002)
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)
- House 1 episode (2005)
- Cold Case 1 episode The Hen House (2006)
- American Dad! 1 episode (2007)
- WordGirl (2007)
- Jack's Family Adventure (2009)
- Darkstar: The Interactive Movie Game (2010)
- "Peter Graves: Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
- "Peter Graves Biography". Film Reference. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
- My-Thuan Tran (March 15, 2010). "Peter Graves dies at 83; star of TV's 'Mission: Impossible". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
- Michael Pollak (March 15, 2010). "Peter Graves, 'Mission: Impossible' Star, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
- "View source for James Arness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- Ancestry of James Arness
- James Arness, James E. Wise Jr. (2001) "James Arness: an Autobiography", ISBN 0-7864-1221-6, McFarland & Company Inc., Accessed March 15, 2010
- InBaseline Database 
- AmericaMovie Biographies (Peter Graves)
- Turner Classic Movies (Peter Graves) 
- The Winds of War at the Turner Classic Movie Database 
- In 2011 WOW remained number 4 of most watched miniseries
- "'Mission: Impossible' actor Peter Graves dead at 83". CNN. 15 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
- Call to Danger (1968) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
- Call to Danger (1973) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
- America: A Call to Greatness Website 
- "Internetiquette" AirTran Airways. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
- "aargreverse.com". aargreverse.com. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- [dead link]
- "Peter Graves". FamousDEAD. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- Guardian obituary
- "Emmy Awards 1969". IMDb. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
- "Mission: Impossible". Golden Globe awards. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Peter Graves.|
- Peter Graves at the Internet Movie Database
- Peter Graves at the TCM Movie Database
- Peter Graves at AllMovie
- Biography and filmography at Brian's Drive-In Theater
- Peter Graves at The New York Times