Former Biography anchor; actor. Born Peter Aurness, on March 18, 1925 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Graves has combined an enormously successful film acting career—spanning the classic Stalag 17 to the hilarious Airplane—with an equally rewarding TV career, encompassing more than a half-dozen series, several major mini-series and numerous movies-for-television. From 1987 to 1994, Graves served as the sole host of A&E’s signature series Biography, when he was joined by Jack Perkins.
Signing on to head the Mission Impossible force for six of the seven years the original series ran on CBS-TV (1966-73) firmly established Graves as a star of international importance, a status that continues undiminished. When ABC-TV decided to bring Mission Impossible back to the home screen in 1989, they asked Mr. Graves to head the otherwise all-new cast.
His other series credits include Court-Martial, Whiplash, Fury, and The Rebels; plus two Time-Life series of Discover: The World of Science. Additionally, he created the role of Palmer Kirby on ABC-TV’s The Winds of War miniseries and reprised that role for War and Remembrance.
Since his film debut in Rouge River, Graves has starred in a legion of leading roles in such motion pictures as The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, A Rage to Live, The Raid, The Ballad of Josie, The Long Grey Line, Texas Across the River, Five Man Army, and others. Other motion pictures have included Spree, Number One with a Gun, Airplane II, Savannah Smiles, Survival Run, Cruise Missile, Black Tuesday, and Fort Defiance.
Additional movies and miniseries for television have included Death on the Freeway, Death Flight, Underground Man, New Orleans Street Force, Where Have All the People Gone and The Memory of Eva Ryker.
Graves’ elder brother is James Arness, an actor best known as the star of the long-running TV series Gunsmoke (1955-75).
Graves was also an accomplished musician, an affinity he developed early in his youth, when, in addition to athletics, he also found time to take on yet another interest: radio announcing. At the age of 16, he joined the announcing staff of radio WMIN in Minneapolis. Upon high school graduation, Peter enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he spent two years.
Graves died on March 14, 2010, of natural causes. A spokeperson said that the actor collapsed in his driveway after breakfast with his family. His daughter attempted to revive him through CPR, but was unsuccessful. He is survived by Joan Endress, to whom he was married for many years. They have three daughters together and a number of grandchildren.