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Peter Graves

Peter GravesAKA Peter Graves Aurness

Born: 18-Mar-1926
Birthplace: Minneapolis, MN
Died: 14-Mar-2010
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Mission: Impossible

Military service: USAF (two years)

Peter Graves was a familiar face from decades of assorted TV shows, best remembered as the mysterious Jim Phelps, commander of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) on TV's Mission: Impossible.

As a boy growing up in Minnesota, he was Peter Aurness, the younger brother of James Aurness, who grew up to star in Gunsmoke. As a young actor, Graves had roles on old-time TV dramas like The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and TV Reader's Digest. His first film was Rogue River in 1951 with Rory Calhoun. In his first starring role, 1952's Red Planet Mars, Graves played a man who thought he was receiving radio messages from Mars, but was actually establishing communication with God. Graves' most famous films include Billy Wilder's Stalag 17, Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter, and Roger Corman's It Conquered the World.

In his first TV series, The Ray Bolger Show (1953), Graves performed comedy skits and sang and danced. In the western Fury (1955-60), Graves played a widowed rancher who adopted a young orphan boy. Whiplash (1961-62) was another western, with Graves running a stagecoach company. Court Martial was a 1966 military drama.

Graves joined Mission: Impossible in 1967 for its second season, replacing the first season's lead, Steven Hill. Hill had played the team leader Mr. Briggs, while Graves played the team leader Mr. Phelps, but the change was never explained to viewers. Mission: Impossible was intelligent, well-written, suspenseful, and successful, and Graves stayed with the show until its cancellation in 1973. He later played the lascivious Captain Oveur in Airplane!. From 1987 to 2001, he was the host of A&E's Biography.

In 1988, 15 years after its cancellation, ABC executives revived Mission: Impossible when a writers' strike briefly loomed over Hollywood. The idea was to use scripts from the original series, thus obtaining new programming without violating union rules or breaking the strike. Graves returned as Mr. Phelps, surrounded by a new cast of IMF agents, and four episodes were filmed using scripts from the original series, almost verbatim. These episodes were well received, and the strike was soon settled, allowing production to continue for two seasons, with 35 episodes.

Graves should not be confused with the British film actor, Sir Peter Graves (1911-1994), who appeared in many musicals, including Waltz Time, Gaiety George, and Maytime in Mayfair.

Father: Rolf E. Aurness (b. 1894)
Mother: Ruth (Duesler) Salisbury Aurness (b. 1899)
Brother: James Arness (actor)
Wife: Joan Endress (college sweetheart, m. 1950, three daughters)
Daughter: Kelly
Daughter: Claudia
Daughter: Amanda

    University: Drama, University of Minnesota

    Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity
    Endorsement of GEICO
    Endorsement of General Motors Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, with daughter Amanda
    Golden Globe 1971 for Mission: Impossible (best actor, drama)
    Emmy 1997 for Biography (informational series)
    Kentucky Colonel
    Visited Disneyland Candlelight Procession (Dec-1994)

    7th Heaven John Camden ("The Colonel", 1997-)
    Mission: Impossible Jim Phelps (1988-90)
    Mission: Impossible James Phelps (1967-73)
    Whiplash Christopher Cobb (1961)
    Fury Jim Newton (1955-60)

    Men in Black II (26-Jun-2002) · Himself
    These Old Broads (12-Feb-2001)
    House on Haunted Hill (24-Oct-1999) · Himself
    Addams Family Values (19-Nov-1993) · Host
    War and Remembrance (13-Nov-1988)
    Number One with a Bullet (1987) · Capt. Ferris
    The Winds of War (6-Feb-1983)
    Airplane II: The Sequel (10-Dec-1982) · Capt. Oveur
    Savannah Smiles (12-Nov-1982)
    Airplane! (2-Jul-1980) · Capt. Oveur
    Death Car on the Freeway (25-Sep-1979)
    The Clonus Horror (Aug-1979)
    Survival Run (23-May-1979)
    The Rebels (14-May-1979)
    SST: Death Flight (25-Feb-1977)
    Sidecar Racers (30-Apr-1975)
    Where Have All the People Gone? (8-Oct-1974) · Steven Anders
    Scream of the Wolf (16-Jan-1974)
    The 5 Man Army (16-Oct-1969)
    Sergeant Ryker (1-Feb-1968)
    Valley of Mystery (21-Apr-1967)
    The Ballad of Josie (1-Feb-1967) · Jason Meredith
    Texas Across the River (26-Oct-1966) · Capt. Stimpson
    A Rage to Live (20-Oct-1965) · Jack Hollister
    A Stranger in My Arms (3-Mar-1959)
    Death in Small Doses (15-Sep-1957) · Tom Kaylor
    Beginning of the End (28-Jun-1957)
    Hold Back the Night (29-Jul-1956)
    It Conquered the World (15-Jul-1956)
    The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (22-Dec-1955)
    Fort Yuma (4-Oct-1955)
    The Naked Street (Aug-1955) · Joe McFarland
    Wichita (3-Jul-1955) · Morgan
    Robbers' Roost (30-May-1955) · Heesman
    The Night of the Hunter (19-Feb-1955) · Ben Harper
    The Long Gray Line (9-Feb-1955) · Rudolph Heinz
    Black Tuesday (31-Dec-1954)
    The Raid (4-Aug-1954)
    The Yellow Tomahawk (May-1954)
    Killers From Space (23-Jan-1954)
    Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (2-Dec-1953) · Arnold
    East of Sumatra (11-Sep-1953)
    War Paint (28-Aug-1953)
    Stalag 17 (1-Jul-1953) · Price
    Red Planet Mars (15-May-1952) · Chris Cronyn
    Fort Defiance (9-Oct-1951)
    Rogue River (15-Feb-1951)

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