Peter Graves, the actor perhaps best remembered for his role as team leader Jim Phelps on the 1960s TV series Mission: Impossible and his comedic turn as Captain Oveur in the 1980 comedy Airplane!, has died yesterday in his home in Pacific Palisades, Ca. He was 83.
The younger brother of actor James Arness, Graves first broke in to film with a small role in the 1951 Rogue River. Other early film roles include Angels In The Outfield (1951), Stalag 17 and Beneath The 12-Mile Reef (both 1953). Working in both film and television, he soon found himself with major roles in Night Of The Hunter, Fort Yuma (both 1955) and It Conquered The World (1956). Through the 60s, Graves worked predominantly in television culminating with his role on Mission: Impossible.
Although he continued to work through the 1970s, Graves’ career received a boost with his appearance in the 1980 disaster spoof Airplane! as an airline pilot who asks numerous inappropriate questions to a young boy visiting the cockpit of his airplane. It was a part that the actor almost declined, reportedly thinking that the script was a “piece of junk,” but changed his mind after meeting with Jerry and David Zucker, two of the film’s three writer/directors.