Sunday, March 14, 2010
Peter Graves (1926-2010)
Peter Graves had a long career in film and television, but as word spreads of the actor's passing, just days shy of his 84th birthday, it seems almost inevitable that what will be cited first will be a series of his most famous lines: "Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?" "Do you like movies about gladiators?" "Have you ever seen a grown man naked?" All come courtesy of his role as Capt. Clarence Oveur in the original Airplane! They've pushed "Your mission, should you choose to accept it..." and "This tape will self destruct in ..." way down the line in Graves' list of most famous utterances.
His first notable film role was that of the rat in Billy Wilder's Stalag 17. He bounced back and forth between many western features and lots of episodic television though he did catch a part in Charles Laughton's great The Night of the Hunter, the same year he appeared in Otto Preminger's The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell.
In 1967, he created the role which really cemented his fame: Jim Phelps on Mission: Impossible, which he played until the series' end in 1973 and reprised again in an attempt to revive the series from 1988-1990.
Many TV movies and miniseries followed including a chance to play George Washington in 1979's The Rebels and a role in both The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.
Then 1980 brought Airplane! where he and other actors best known for playing it straight such as Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges got to do what they do and create one of the all-time laugh riots. Graves also appeared in the decidedly mediocre sequel.
One of his longest runs came from playing himself as host of A&E's Biography from 1994-2006. Among his most notable recent TV appearances was a recurring role on 7th Heaven and a guest spot on House as an oversexed senior citizen.
Among his survivors is his older brother, actor James Arness. RIP Mr. Graves.