OBITUARY: Peter Graves 1926-2010

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Peter Graves was found dead in his home in California today. He was 83.

Born Peter Aurness in Minnesota, he was best known for his work as Jim Phelps on the long-running, and deservedly legendary spy series, “Mission: Impossible,” Graves was a long-time genre actor, with numerous appearances in SF shows and movies running the gamut from good to unbelievably awful.

His immediately-recognizable voice got him his first job as a radio DJ at age seventeen, and he worked steadily in entertainment for the next six decades. His final genre role was “Airplane II: The Sequel,” in which he played the pilot of the first commercial space shuttle to the moon. He did one of the better episodes of the Gil Gerard version of “Buck Rogers,” and he was good in a guest spot in “The Invaders,“ but then there were things like “The Clonus Horror” and “Killers from Space” which is correctly regarded as one of the most miserable of all no-budget SF films of the ‘50s.

But I come not to deride the man’s talents: if he couldn’t polish a turd, that’s not his fault. He worked consistently for Fifty-Eight years, he always gave his best performance, regardless of whether it was high drama, or low-level dope stuff, he was a hard worker, and a devoted family man, happily married to the same woman for fifty years, and with three well-adjusted children. Given the very nature of Hollywood, these are no small feats, and they speak volumes about the kind of guy he was. I’ve heard people talk a lot of trash about a lot of folks in the entertainment industry, but I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Peter Graves.

He is survived by his wife, Joan, their three children, and his older brother, James Arness. He was four days shy of his 84th birthday.

Our prayers go with his soul, and for his family.