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Monday, March 15, 2010

Actor Peter Graves dead at 83 in LA

Mission Impossible star Peter Graves dies aged 83.

Peter Graves - star of the classic TV series Mission: Impossible and disaster spoof movie Airplane! - has died in the US city of Los Angeles. He was 83.

The actor had a suspected heart attack outside his home after a meal with his family, about a week before his 84th birthday, said publicist Sandy Brokaw.

Graves was perhaps best known for his role as special agent Jim Phelps in the popular TV series Mission: Impossible.

He also played bungling pilot Clarence Oveur in the 1980 film Airplane!.

The actor initially turned down the role but was talked round by the film-makers, who told him his dry, deadpan humour made him perfect for the spoof disaster moovie.

He had just returned from lunch on Sunday with his wife and children when he collapsed before making it into the house, his publicist said.

One of his daughters tried in vain to revive him.

"He had this statesman-like quality," publicist Brokaw told AP news agency. "People were always encouraging him to run for office. But he said: 'I like acting. I like being around actors."'

The police said the star had died of "natural causes" at his home.

Arguably his most famous role was in the long-running TV show Mission: Impossible, in which Graves led a squad of American government special agents battling evil conspirators.

Every show began with Graves, as Agent Phelps, listening to instructions detailing his team's latest mission on a tape, which self-destructed within seconds of being played.

The show ran on CBS from 1967 to 1973 and was revived on ABC from 1988 to 1990.

The actor said the writing was behind the show's long-running success.

"It made you think a little bit and kept you on the edge of your seat because you never knew what was going to happen next," he once said.

He won a Golden Globe in 1971 for his part in the series.

Graves appeared in about 130 film and TV shows during his career.

His first television series was the 1950s children's Saturday morning show Fury, about an orphan and an untamed black stallion.

Early in his career, he also turned in a memorable performance as a Nazi spy in the 1953 prisoner-of-war drama Stalag 17.

In recent years, he hosted the A&E Network's long-running historical series, Biography.

It won him an Emmy for outstanding informational series in 1997.

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