‘Gunsmoke’: James Arness and His Brother Both Starred in Famous Westerns at the Same Time

by Katie Maloney

James Arness’s brother Peter Graves was the star of a popular western television show, but not in the United States. Can you guess which country Peter filmed the popular show Whiplash in?

America wasn’t the only country with westerns. The British also liked the gritty nature of the wild west. However, their westerns weren’t filmed on ranches in Montana. The British filmed their westerns in Australia. Instead of featuring cattle roaming the land, these westerns featured kangaroos hopping across the outback. And James Arness’s brother, Peter Graves was the star of it all.

James and Peter Aurness grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The two joined the Army during World War II and later became actors. James changed his last name to Arness while Peter opted for a different last name entirely – Graves, a maternal family name. Although their names were different, their acting careers began pretty similarly.

James Arness landed the role of Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke where he was charged with keeping the peace in Dodge City. Meanwhile, Peter Graves played a California rancher in the movie Fury. Shortly after filming Fury, Graves headed to Australia to star in Whiplash. Whiplash was a joint production of Australia’s Seven Network and the British endeavors ATV and ITC Entertainment. For the show, Graves played Chris Cobb, an American living in Australia in the 1850s to help establish a stagecoach line.

Whiplash starring Peter Graves

Peter Graves Became a ‘Sex Symbol’ in Mission: Impossible

Peter Graves didn’t strictly stick to westerns. After his time with Whiplash, he moved back to the US and played Jim Phelps in Mission: Impossible from 1967 to 1973. Before Tom Cruise hit it big with his Mission: Impossible movies, Graves was starring as Phelps on the show. During the show, Phelps was the head of the Impossible Missions Force. He and his team were constantly going undercover for villain-catching adventures. Graves played Phelps again from 1988-90. During an interview in 1983, a host talked to Peter Graves about his varying roles. He pointed out how Graves played a father in the movie Fury, and then he starred in Mission: Impossible and quickly became a sex symbol. The host asked Graves if that transition was difficult to handle.

“Listen, successful shows are always easy to handle,” joked Graves. “That’s no problem.”

Graves also opened up about what it was like to have a famous brother who acted as well. The host asked Graves if competition ever caused conflict between them.

“It wasn’t in our case, no,” said Graves. “I think we were always pleased with each other’s success…so there was never a conflict between the two of us.”