LOS ANGELES – Peter Graves, the tall, stalwart actor likely best known for his portrayal of Jim Phelps, leader of a gang of special agents who battled evil conspirators in the long-running television series “Mission: Impossible,” died Sunday.
Graves died of an apparent heart attack outside his Los Angeles home, about a week shy of his 84th birthday, publicist Sandy Brokaw said.
He had just returned from brunch with his wife and kids and collapsed before he made it into the house, Brokaw said. One of his daughters administered CPR but was unable to revive him. Graves’ family doctor visited the house and believed he had a heart attack, Brokaw said.
Normally cast as a hero, he turned in an unforgettable performance early in his career as the treacherous Nazi spy in Billy Wilder’s 1953 prisoner-of-war drama “Stalag 17.”
He also masterfully lampooned his straight-arrow image when he portrayed bumbling airline pilot Clarence Oveur in the 1980 disaster movie spoof “Airplane!”
The authority and trust he projected made him a favorite for commercials, and he was often encouraged to go into politics.
“He had this statesmanlike quality,” Brokaw said. “People were always encouraging him to run for office. But he said, ‘I like acting. I like being around actors.’ ”