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Vintage Hunk: Peter Graves

By Mike McCrann

Peter Graves had a long and successful career in movies and television, but his claim to fame probably rests with the classic TV show Mission: Impossible and the hilarious film Airplane.

Graves was born Peter Aurness in 1926 in Minnesota. His elder brother, Jim Arness, became a major star in the long-running TV western Gunsmoke. Graves took the same Hollywood path as his brother and found quick success in television and film.

Graves was superb as the blond villain in Billy Wilder's great 1953 war film Stalag 17, but true stardom came in 1967 when Graves was asked to replace Steven Hill in the iconic adventure series Mission: Impossible. Most of the acting greatness came from the gorgeous Barbara Bain and her then-husband Martin Landau, but Graves grounded the show as the serious and sexy team leader.

Graves made a number of fun movies including the 1965 drama A Rage to Live, in which he carries on with Suzanne Pleshette as a nymphomaniac. But for all his acting prowess, Graves, who passed away in 2010, will probably always be best remembered as Captain Oveur, the sexy airplane pilot in 1980's Airplane who made inappropriate comments to little Joey in the cockpit — "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?” Graves was so perfectly wrong in the role that everyone who saw the film came away singing his praises.

Airplane remains one of the greatest camp comedy films of all time, and many gay fans will always have a soft — or hard — spot for Graves as Captain Oveur.

Watch a classic clip below.

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