Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Mission: Impossible star Peter Graves dies aged 83

Peter Graves in LA in October 2009
Peter Graves played a bungling pilot in the 1980 spoof Airplane!

Peter Graves - star of the classic TV series Mission: Impossible and disaster spoof movie Airplane! - has died in the US city of Los Angeles. He was 83.

The actor had a suspected heart attack outside his home after a meal with his family, about a week before his 84th birthday, said publicist Sandy Brokaw.

Graves was perhaps best known for his role as special agent Jim Phelps in the popular TV series Mission: Impossible.

He also played bungling pilot Clarence Oveur in the 1980 film Airplane!.

The actor initially turned down the role but was talked round by the film-makers, who told him his dry, deadpan humour made him perfect for the spoof disaster movie.

He had just returned from lunch on Sunday with his wife and children when he collapsed before making it into the house, his publicist said.

He had this statesmanlike quality
Sandy Brokaw

One of his daughters tried in vain to revive him.

"He had this statesman-like quality," publicist Brokaw told AP news agency. "People were always encouraging him to run for office. But he said: 'I like acting. I like being around actors."'

The police said the star had died of "natural causes" at his home.


Arguably his most famous role was in the long-running TV show Mission: Impossible, in which Graves led a squad of American government special agents battling evil conspirators.

Every show began with Graves, as Agent Phelps, listening to instructions detailing his team's latest mission on a tape, which self-destructed within seconds of being played.

The show ran on CBS from 1967 to 1973 and was revived on ABC from 1988 to 1990.


Graves played a bumbling pilot in the spoof movie Airplane

The actor said the writing was behind the show's long-running success.

"It made you think a little bit and kept you on the edge of your seat because you never knew what was going to happen next," he once said.

He won a Golden Globe in 1971 for his part in the series.

Graves appeared in about 130 film and TV shows during his career.

His first television series was the 1950s children's Saturday morning show Fury, about an orphan and an untamed black stallion.

Early in his career, he also turned in a memorable performance as a Nazi spy in the 1953 prisoner-of-war drama Stalag 17.

In recent years, he hosted the A&E Network's long-running historical series, Biography.

It won him an Emmy for outstanding informational series in 1997.

We asked BBC news website readers for their memories of Peter Graves. Please find a selection of your comments below.

While filming Mission: Impossible in 1990, Peter Graves and his wife stayed for several months in the hotel where I worked. They were a lovely couple and always very nice to everyone.
Jordan Tuxworth, Melbourne, Australia

I watched Mission: Impossible as a child along with my parents. It was one of the few modern series that my parents watched, other than the cowboy western series, which is why I remember it so well. Mr Graves was indeed statesman-like as his daughter has said, and he will be missed. May his family take some measure of comfort in knowing their man was well thought of by so many.
John M. Slusser II, Nantwich, UK

I met Peter at a Collectormania event a few years ago. He was a charming, genuine and warm chap and I enjoyed the chat I had with him. Lovely bloke, rest in peace Peter.
Steve, Swansea, UK

Graves and Leslie Nielson helped set the tone in Airplane, the Movie! by virtue of these two actors using their dramatic acting experience to great comic effect in this movie. Graves' role in Mission: Impossible also led his character to be spoofed in Team America - World Police. Great actor, unforgettable voice and look.
Paul, Kyiv, Ukraine

I am 27 and Mission: Impossible was a big part of my teens. My mother introduced me to the show and I grew to love it. Mr Graves was the support you could count on if a plan failed or an unexpected situation occurred. He was a grown up boy scout with a pinch of danger added. Airplane! was such a wonderful spoof of his former roles that you couldn't help but love him for it. He will be missed.
Aldar-Riplie Sugden, Monmouth, Oregon, USA

I met Peter once back in the 80s. He was taking part in an all star tennis match. He was very charming, friendly and distinguished. I was glad to have met him.

RIP, Peter Graves. My condolences to his family and friends. Airplane!/Flying High is one of my all time favourite comedy films and Mission: Impossible is probably my favourite television show. Great actor and an equally brilliant family man.
Adam, Australia

In later years he was a highly respected TV biographer on the A&E channel. I remember his very good biography of the Queen Mother on her 100th birthday.
Dual Citizen, Portland, Oregon, USA

I am deeply touched following the death of this actor - he was my role model. May he rest in peace.
Maurice Ochieng Ojengo, Ugunja, Kenya

I remember him best for his role in Stalag 17, arguably his best known critical movie role. My parents are both actors and musicians and we all studied drama and music at school and I remember watching the film aged seven and being captivated by it in black and white and convinced he was a slime ball spy ...what more can I say? R.I.P. and condolences to family and close friends.
Dave Ledbetter, Cape Town, South Africa

I really liked Peter Graves as an actor. He will always be remembered for his role in Mission: Impossible and Airplane!, but there is also a little talked about series which he made in the 1950s and 1960s called Fury, in which he played rancher Jim Newton who adopted a street wise boy called Joey, played by Bobby Diamond. The show revolved around a black stallion called Fury who was wild and who only Joey could ride in the beginning. As the show progressed, Fury became a firm member of Jim's family and was able to be ridden by Jim as well. The show ran for eleven years from 1955 to 1966 and also starred William Fawcett as Pete Wilkie, Jim's foreman.
Amanda Heggs, Melbourne, Australia

Peter Graves was one of the most outstanding actors I ever watched and I definitely believe most of us will miss him. Although I never had a chance to meet him personally, may God bless his soul.
John Osoro Oroni, Ghanzi, Botswana

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