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Peter Graves (1926)

Peter Aurness

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  Summary  

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. His elder brother was actor James Arness (1923–2011).

  Biography  

 early life
Graves was born Peter 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, English 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.

Graves graduated from Southwest High School in 1944, and spent two years in the United States Army Air Force 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.

 career
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 involved in the 1953 World War II film, Stalag 17, where he portrayed a German spy pretending to be a prisoner of war.

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, 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 played Jim Phelps, the sometimes gruff leader 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 McGraw in what became in '83, the second most watched miniseries of all time .
After playing mainly serious roles in the 1970s, he acted 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 . 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 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 , 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 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' 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 Attack of 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 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.

On October 30, 2009, Graves was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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 spokesperson for reverse mortgage lender American Advisors Group . Graves appeared in a national commercial in which he educated seniors about the benefits of reverse mortgages.

Graves' final project was narrating the computer game epic Darkstar: The Interactive Movie, released November 5, 2010.

 personal life
Graves was a devout Christian. He was married to Joan Endress from 1950 until his death. Their marriage produced three daughters: Kelly Jean, Claudia King and Amanda Lee. Graves had six grandchildren.

 death
After returning from a brunch on March 14, 2010, Graves collapsed and died of a heart attack at the age of 83. He was four days from his 84th birthday. It was reported that one of his daughters attempted to revive him, but was unsuccessful.

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  • Directing
  • Kidnap
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    1972

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Peter Graves", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.