Peter Graves Dead at 83

TV spymaster turned strait-laced funnyman has heart attack
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2010 1:20 AM CDT
Updated Mar 15, 2010 5:11 AM CDT
Actor Peter Graves takes close up during shooting of the popular television show "Mission: Impossible" in 1969.   (AP Photo, File)
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(Newser) – TV's top spymaster turned dead-pan funnyman Peter Graves has died at the age of 83. The actor played the lead in TV's Mission: Impossible for years and won over a new generation with his canny self-parody as the pedophile pilot in Airplane! The brother of Gunsmoke star James Arness, Graves established himself as a film actor in the 50s, with classics like Stalag 17, Night of the Hunter, and the Long Gray Line.

Graves stretched himself as an actor to play the pedophile pilot in the parody comedy thriller Airplane! “I tore my hair and ranted and raved and said, 'This is insane,’" he reflected when he first got the script, but his reputation for gravitas brought the role alive. The actor later became the host of A&E's Biography, in which he narrated the lives of figures like Winston Churchill, Muhammad Ali, and Steven Spielberg. Graves died of a heart attack in his California home in Pacific Palisades,the New York Times reports. He's survived by his wife and 3 daughters.

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