Peter Graves, star of Mission: Impossible on CBS, and its continuation/spin-off, ABC’s Mission: Impossible, has passed away at the age of 83 (he would have turned 84 on Thursday. According to The New York Times, Graves died of a heart attack at his home in California. Although defined by the six years he spent as leader of the Impossible Missions Force on Mission: Impossible — from 1967 to 1973 — Graves began his lengthy television career in the early 1950s, appearing in episodes of anthologies like “Gruen Guild Playhouse and Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. From 1955 to 1961 he played Jim Newton on Fury; he then starred as Christopher Cobb in Whiplash, which was syndicated in the United States beginning in 1961. Following that series he played Maj. Frank Whittaker on Court Martial from 1965 to 1966. Then, in 1967, he replaced Steven Hill as the star of Mission: Impossible and appeared in 143 episodes of the course of the next six years.
After Mission: Impossible went off the air, Graves appeared in a variety of television and movie roles, including Captain Clarence Oveur in 1980’s Airplane and its 1982 sequel, Airplane II: The Sequel. In 1988, Graves returned to the role of Peter Phelps for a new version of Mission: Impossible, initially planned as a cheap filler program during the 1988 Writers Strike. It would ultimately stay on the air for two seasons; both by Greg Morris and Lynda Day George, who had appeared in the 1960s version, had guest roles in the new series. Between 1997 and 2007, Graves appeared in eleven episodes of Seventh Heaven. According to the Internet Movie Database his last credited television role was a 2007 episode of American Dad!.
Obituaries can be found at The New York Times, CNN.com and The Los Angeles Times. I’ve always enjoyed the original Mission: Impossible (I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of the 1980s version) and Graves was a large part of that. And I’ve always admired the way he (and other cast members) refused to participate in the 1996 film Mission: Impossible when it became obvious the producers had very little respect for the television series.