Peter Graves Dies

Airplane!’s Captain Oveur, out at 83

Peter Graves Dies

by James White |
Published on

Sad news for fans of self-destructive tapes, German spies or Turkish prisons: actor Peter Graves, known for his warm gravitas and long career, has died at the age of 83.

Graves got his start at a young age, launching a career as a radio announcer at the age of 16. But after a stint in the Air Force, his thoughts turned to acting and he studied drama at the University of Minnesota.

Once he’d graduated, he made the move to Hollywood, following in the footsteps of his brother, James Arness, who had already established himself as the star of Gunsmoke.

It would be a while before Graves enjoyed such name brand recognition, working his way up in the early 1950s though TV and in movies such as 1951’s Rogue River.

Roles in the likes of Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17 and The Yellow Tomahawk followed, but the actor would really become well known when he took over the role of Jim Phelps in 1967’s cult TV show Mission: Impossible, a job he stayed in for six seasons.

Fame called once again when he was asked to play Captain Clarence Oveur in spoof disaster film Airplane! He turned the role down at first, before learning that Leslie Nielsen had agreed to sign on, and creating one of moviedom’s most memorable, endlessly quoted characters (“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”)

While he returned for the 1988 TV remake of Mission: Impossible, he refused to be a part of the Tom Cruise-starring film version in 1996.

While some take it easy as they get older, Graves preferred to stay active, with guest roles on everything from House to American Dad and hosting US documentary show Biography.

He’ll be missed.

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