Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 14th, 2010
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that law enforcement sources have confirmed that actor Peter Graves, 83, was found dead, apparently of natural causes, Sunday, March 14, 2010, at his home in Pacific Palisades. He died shortly after having Sunday brunch with his family. According to Graves’ business manager, Graves died of a heart attack.
Within cryptozoology circles, Graves will be remembered for his role of narrator and on-camera in-field investigator in the documentary, The Mysterious Monsters (1976).
During the 1990s, he hosted the documentary series Biography on A&E. He also acted in a number of films shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Graves had appeared in such science fiction classics as Red Planet Mars (1952), Killers from Space (1954), and It Conquered the World (1956). Subsequently the program had running jokes about Graves’ Biography work and presumed sibling rivalry with his still living actor brother James Arness. Graves himself parodied his Biography work in the film Men in Black II, hosting an exposé television show.
Graves also starred as Jim Phelps, in the award-winning television series Mission: Impossible (9/17/1966 – 9/8/1973, 10/23/1988 – 2/24/1990). He appeared in well-received movies like Airplane! and Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17.
In a L. A. Times story late last year, Graves said he initially turned down the role for Airplane! because he thought it was in poor taste–until actors Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges and Leslie Nielsen signed on to the cast. “They say you are supposed to stretch as an actor, so let’s go stretch it,” he told The Times’ Susan King.
Graves was born Peter Aurness in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Ruth (née Duesler), a journalist, and Rolf Cirkler Aurness, a Norwegian who worked in business. Graves is a descendant of German and Norwegian immigrants. Graves is the younger brother of actor James Arness (Gunsmoke). Graves attended Southwest High School (Class of 1944) and spent two years in the US Air Force before attending the University of Minnesota, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Graves married Joan Endress in 1950. They had three daughters: Kelly, Claudia and Amanda, and six grandchildren.
Graves died on March 14, 2010, just four days prior to his 84th birthday.