Salute to Peter Graves

Peter Graves wasn’t the first star of Mission: Impossible. Steven Hill was. But Graves was the actor most identified with the show, the longest-running (seven seasons) of the 1960s TV spy series that got their start because of the James Bond movies.

Here’s a typical opening to an M:I episode:

It’s from an early second-season episode (Graves’s first on the series) where Jim Phelps’s Impossible Missions Force fakes an earthquake in San Francisco.

In 1988, ABC comissioned a new M:I series. In part, the network’s decision stemmed from a writer’s strike that halted production of new shows in Hollywood. But that didn’t stop remakes of existing scripts. So, the new M:I debuted with a remake of a show from the original series. In this version, the IMF team leader is killed by an assassin. But his mentor was Jim Phelps. As a result, the audience sees a lonely figure observing the funeral…

Somehow, you just *know* that Jim Phelps isn’t going to leave things as they are…

Mission: Impossible’s Peter Graves dies

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Peter Graves, star of the both the original Mission: Impossible series and its 1980s revival, was found dead at his California home, apparently from natural causes.

Graves, the brother of Gunsmoke star James Arness, was brought into M:I starting with the show’s second season. The show never explained why Graves’s Jim Phelps replaced Steven Hill’s Dan Briggs as the leader of the Impossible Missions Force. In any case, for the next six years, Graves (as well as Greg Morris) would be a constant in a show that went through a lot of turmoil and cast changes, with the likes of Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Leonard Nimoy, Lesley Warren, Sam Elliott and Peter Lupus (who was replaced for a time before returning) coming in and out as regulars.

Obituaries for Graves will also prominently mention his work on Airplane! but because this is a spy entertainment-focused blog, we had to include this montage on YouTube of opening titles from the original show. It keeps repeating the theme to get in more clips of episodes than the typical opening of an M:I installment:

And here’s a titles sequence from the 1988-90 revival to show Jim Phelps lighting the fuse.

UPDATE: The New York Times has now published a longer obituary. You can view it by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.