Peter Graves

Jim Phelps has accepted his final assignment. Graves, best known as the implacable leader of TV's Mission: Impossible team from 1967 to '73, died March 14 at 83. Thus ended a 60-year career in which his flinty features, suitable for carving on Mount Rushmore, and his sonorous baritone made him one of the small screen's leading authority figures--an eminence he occasionally subverted in irreverent comedies like Airplane! and Men in Black II.

The younger brother of Gunsmoke star James Arness, Graves arrived in Hollywood by 1950 and got his first important role, as the all-American soldier who turns out to be...