Is Peter Graves Related to James Arness? The Truth About the Brothers Graves

Many fans of classic television shows might wonder: is Peter Graves related to James Arness? The answer is yes, they were brothers. Peter Graves and James Arness, better known as The Brothers Graves, are among the most recognizable faces in television history. The two performers maintained a strong friendship on and off set, even though they were not blood-related. Peter and James were two Hollywood legends who starred in iconic roles such as Jim Phelps in Mission: Impossible and Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke. In this article, we will explore their family background, their military service, their acting careers, and their personal lives.

From Aurness to Arness and Graves

Peter Graves and James Arness were born as Peter Duesler Aurness and James King Aurness in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their parents were Rolf Cirkler Aurness, a businessman, and Ruth Duesler, a journalist. Their father’s ancestry was Norwegian; their mother’s was German. The family name had been Aursnes, but when their grandfather Peter Aursnes emigrated from Norway in 1887, he changed it to Aurness.

Peter was the younger brother of James by three years. They both attended Southwest High School in Minneapolis, where they were active in sports and music. Peter was a champion hurdler and a member of the choir; James was a football and basketball star and a trombonist in the band.

When they decided to pursue acting careers, they both tweaked their names to avoid confusion with other actors. James changed his last name to Arness, dropping the U. Peter changed his last name to Graves, a maternal family name. According to Wikipedia, Peter chose Graves to honor his mother’s family and also because it sounded more serious than Aurness.

War Heroes and Wounded Warriors

Both Peter and James served in the military during World War II. James enlisted in the US Army in 1943 and was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division. He landed on Anzio Beachhead in Italy in 1944 as a rifleman and was severely wounded in his right leg during the Battle of Anzio. He was medically evacuated to the US, where he underwent several surgeries and received the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

Peter enlisted in the US Army Air Forces in 1944 and served as a radio operator. He was stationed in Hawaii and did not see any combat action. He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of corporal.

After the war, both brothers enrolled at different colleges on the G.I. Bill. James attended Beloit College in Wisconsin, where he joined Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Peter attended the University of Minnesota, where he joined Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. It was Peter who pushed his older brother to take a radio course as he recuperated from his war injury, according to Outsider. This sparked James’s interest in acting and led him to move to Hollywood.

TV Stars and Movie Icons

Peter and James both started their acting careers in the late 1940s, appearing in various films and television shows. They often played roles that suited their physical stature: Peter was 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) tall; James was 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) tall.

James became famous for his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in the CBS television series Gunsmoke, which ran from 1955 to 1975. He played the rugged lawman for 20 years, making him one of the longest-running actors in television history. He also starred in other Western series such as How the West Was Won and McClain’s Law.

Peter became famous for his role as Jim Phelps in the CBS television series Mission: Impossible, which ran from 1967 to 1973 and from 1988 to 1990. He played the leader of a team of secret agents who carried out impossible missions around the world. He also starred in other spy series such as Court Martial and Whiplash.

Both brothers also appeared in several movies, often playing opposite roles. James played heroes such as The Thing from Another World and Them!; Peter played villains such as Airplane! and Airplane II: The Sequel.

Family Men and Philanthropists

Peter and James both had long-lasting marriages and children. James married Virginia Chapman in 1948 and had three children: Jenny Lee (who died of a drug overdose), Rolf (who became an actor), and Craig (who died of a gunshot wound). They divorced in 1960 after Virginia struggled with alcoholism and mental illness. James married Janet Surtees in 1978 and remained with her until his death.

Peter married Joan Endress in 1950 and had three children: Kelly Jean (who became an actress), Claudia King (who became an interior designer), and Amanda Lee (who became a musician). They stayed together until Peter’s death.

Both brothers were also involved in various charitable causes and organizations. James was a supporter of the United Service Organizations (USO), the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the Republican Party. Peter was a supporter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the Democratic Party.

The Brothers Graves: A Legacy of Love and Respect

Peter and James both died of natural causes in Los Angeles, California. James died on June 3, 2011, at the age of 88. Peter died on March 14, 2010, at the age of 83. They were both cremated and their ashes were scattered in undisclosed locations.

Peter and James were not only brothers, but also friends and colleagues. They respected each other’s work and achievements, and they supported each other’s personal and professional lives. They also appeared together in several projects, such as the TV movie The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory and the documentary James Arness: An American Hero.

According to Vizaca, Peter once said about James: “He was a wonderful big brother. He was always there for me.” James once said about Peter: “He’s a great guy. He’s done very well for himself.”

Peter Graves and James Arness were two remarkable men who left a lasting impression on millions of fans around the world. They were brothers by blood, but also by bond. They were The Brothers Graves.

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