TELEVISION/MOVIES: Mission: Impossible’s Peter Graves Dead at 83!

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Though best known for playing Mission: Impossible boss Jim Phelps on television – and a turncoat version of the same character in the first Mission: Impossible movie, Graves was almost as well known for playing Captain Clarence Oveur in the Airplane movies that gave Leslie Nielsen a new career as a comic actor.

In a career that spanned sixty-eight years, he played heroes, villains and everyday guys in over one hundred projects – projects that ranged from legendary anthology shows like The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse and Studio One to sci fi films like It Conquered the World and dramas like Stalag 17. More recently he had done voiceover work for the Darkstar videogame.

Despite appearing numerous films, his real legacy is as a television star, appearing in one hundred and sixteen episodes of Fury, thirty-four episodes of Whiplash, twenty-three episodes of Court Martial and one hundred and forty-three episodes of Mission: Impossible – that’s three hundred and sixteen weeks as the star of a television series!

In each of them, Graves played very different characters but they all had one thing in common – they were believably honorable men. It was likely Graves’ ability to project honesty and integrity that made him so effective as a villain. His characters always seemed like the last guys you’d expect to betray anyone.

It’s fair to say that I grew up watching Peter Graves on TV. I was a fan of all four of those series and I’m sure his roles influenced my behavior in some small, positive fashion. I owe him a debt of gratitude for that as much as for the hundreds of hours of entertainment he gave all of us.