Peter Graves, who was best known for his role as leader of a group of special agents in the TV show “Mission: Impossible,” died Sunday of an apparent heart attack, according to various media reports. He was to have turned 84 on Thursday, March 18.
Graves played the character of Jim Phelps in CBS’ original incarnation of “Mission: Impossible” from 1967 to 1973, and again in its ABC revival, from 1988 to 1990. Each show opened with him listening to a tape of instructions for an upcoming mission, followed by the tape’s self-destruction.
He took over the role heading the "Mission:Impossible" force in season two. In season one the head of the group was named Daniel Briggs and played by Steven Hill, who is better remembered today for playing D.A. Adam Schiff on "Law & Order"
In addition to MI, Graves had appeared in numerous TV shows beginning in the early 1950s. Many baby-boomers will recall Graves from those days as the father in the NBC series "Fury."
Born Peter Aurness, he was the younger brother of Jim Arness, who played Marshal Matt Dillon in one of TV’s longest-running series, "Gunsmoke."
Graves appeared in dozens of films, including as a bumbling pilot in the spoof film “Airplane.” He also had a key role in the POW film “Stalag 17” (1953).