Actor Peter Graves Dies at Age 83

BY Jason M. Breslow  March 15, 2010 at 1:17 PM EDT

Peter Graves, who starred in the hit television series “Mission: Impossible” as well as the “Airplane” films, died Sunday of a heart attack at his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He was 83.

Graves appeared in countless TV shows and dozens of films in a career spanning nearly 60 years, including Billy Wilder’s “Stalag 17” (1953); Charles Laughton’s “Night of the Hunter” (1955); Otto Preminger’s “Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell” (1955); and John Ford’s “Long Gray Line” (1955).

But Graves is perhaps best known for his role as Jim Phelps, leader of the Impossible Missions Force who battled evil conspirators in “Mission: Impossible,” and to younger audiences as Capt. Clarence Oveur in the “Airplane” movies.

In his later years, Graves also hosted PBS’s “Discover: The World of Science” and A&E’s “Biography” series.

Susan King of the Los Angeles Times profiled Graves in late December, a month after he was honored at the Ojai Film Festival with a lifetime achievement award. She notes how Graves was “looking for the next great role,” saying, “There has got to be some good parts around for guys my age.”