Monday, 15 March 2010

Peter Graves RIP

It's a fact that time catches up with us all. People get old and they die. That's just how it is. But it does seem in the last few years as if everyone of my heroes has been shuffling off this mortal coil, and that suddenly seems to make one aware of mortality a bit more. I've tried to think why this should be; and I suppose it's down to the fact that I love tv shows of a certain vintage - particularly those of the sixties and seventies - and inevitably, the stars and producers of programmes made 30 to 50 years ago are nowadays going to be in their 70s and 80s; I'm not surprised to see them dying, and really I'm not saddened. I like to celebrate what they gave us in life, so today I commemorate the passing of Mr Peter Graves.

To me, he will always be the mastermind behind the Impossible Missions Force: the star of America's greatest ever television show. Mission: Impossible is a show I love to watch and rewatch. I'm amazed by the complexity and subtlety of the plots. The nonsensical and frankly insulting movie franchise can't detract from the magnificence of the original. Mr Graves played the role of Jim Phelps with a great sense of gravitas and dignity - it's a show that perhaps teeters on the edge of self-parody, and the straight-ahead and serious performances are what holds it all together. To compare with a more recent example: Hustle has essentially the same premise, a team of sophisticated conmen setting up the perfect sting operation - it's a fine show, but I find all those knowing little winks to the camera annoying - they really detract from the drama of the situation. The IMF conversely are playing for high stakes - the safety and security of the free world - and one doesn't doubt the commitment and dedication of those agents. Peter Graves does a magnificent thing at the beginning of each episode, when he's listening to the tape of the mission briefing - tiny little flickers of thought and intelligence can be read in his face, suggesting that Jim is starting to put together the basis of the plan right there and then. A masterclass performance. He won a Golden Globe for the part in 1971.

Peter Graves 1926-2010

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