Peter Graves was one of television's most venerable stars, having appeared in more than 70 dramatic series, made-for-TV movies and feature films. His most memorable role was as a star of "Mission: Impossible," which ran from 1967 to 1973, and was revived, with Graves still playing a lead, from 1988 to 1990.
Distinguished in later years by his thick shock of white hair, Graves possessed an authoritative persona, which struck some critics as rather stiff and over done. The image was so strong that Graves, a good sport about it, parodied himself in the lampoonish 1980 comedy, "Airplane!" In that hit film, he played a tough, all-business airline pilot who nonetheless leers at a young boy and asks, "Say . . . do you like gladiator movies?"
A younger brother of "Gunsmoke" star James Arness, with whom he maintained a longstanding sibling rivalry, Graves was born in Minneapolis in 1926 and was cast in one of his first major roles in "Stalag 17," a 1953 movie drama about a German prisoner-of-war camp. Graves won high praise for his portrayal of an all-American POW who turned out to be a dastardly Nazi spy—a part he may have played too well. Pigeon-holed as a Nazi, he found himself unable to secure other meaningful roles and his career languished while Arness was flying high as "Gunsmoke's" Matt Dillon.
Desperate, Graves signed on to play in a network children's series about a boy and a horse. "Fury," which ran for five years and played in reruns for many more, made Graves wealthy—and was a prelude to his selection for "Mission: Impossible."