Peter Sallis

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Peter Sallis
OBE
Peter Sallis.jpg
Born (1921-02-01) 1 February 1921 (age 93)
Twickenham, Middlesex, England
Occupation Actor
Years active 1947–2012
Spouse(s) Elaine Usher (1957–present )
Children Crispian Sallis (born 1959)

Peter Sallis, OBE (born 1 February 1921) is an English actor and entertainer, well known for his work on British television. Although he was born and brought up in London, his two most notable roles require him to adopt the accents and mannerisms of a Northerner. He played Norman "Cleggy" Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine from its 1973 inception until its final episode in 2010 - the only actor to appear in all 295 episodes. Internationally, he is known for voicing Wallace in the Wallace and Gromit series of films, but has since handed the role to Ben Whitehead. Sallis has allegedly retired from acting and has not appeared or voiced on film or TV since 2012.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sallis was born on 1 February 1921 in Twickenham, Middlesex, the only child of Dorothy Amea (née Barnard) and Harry Sallis. After attending Minchenden Grammar School in North London, Sallis went to work in a bank. After the outbreak of World War II he joined the RAF. He failed to get into aircrew because he had a serum albumin disorder and he was told he might black out at high altitudes. He became a wireless mechanic instead and went on to teach radio procedures at RAF Cranwell.

Sallis started as an amateur actor during his four years with the RAF when one of his students offered him the lead in an amateur production. His success in the role caused him to resolve to become an actor after the war, and so he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, making his first professional appearance on the London stage in 1946.

Sallis married Elaine Usher at St John's Wood Church in London on 9 February 1957.[2] Their son, Timothy Crispian Sallis, was born in 1959.

Career[edit]

Sallis became a notable character actor on the London stage in the 1950s and 1960s. His credits include the first West End production of Cabaret opposite Judi Dench in 1968. He also appeared in character parts in British films of the time, including a few for Hammer Films. In 1968, he was cast as the well-intentioned Coker in a BBC Radio production of John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids.

His first notable television role was as Samuel Pepys in the BBC serial of the same name in 1958. In 1961, he appeared as Gordon in the "Find and Destroy" episode of Danger Man.[3] He appeared in the Doctor Who story "The Ice Warriors" in 1967, playing renegade scientist Elric Penley; and in 1983 was due to play the role of Striker in another Doctor Who story, "Enlightenment", but had to withdraw. He was Doctor Watson to Fritz Weaver's Sherlock Holmes in the Broadway musical Baker Street in 1967. He introduced what the critics considered the show's best musical number, "A Married Man."

In 1970, he was cast in the BBC comedy series The Culture Vultures, which saw him play stuffy Professor George Hobbs to Leslie Phillips's laid-back rogue Dr Michael Cunningham. During the production, Phillips was rushed to hospital with an internal haemorrhage and as a result, only five episodes were made.

1971 saw Sallis acting alongside Roger Moore and Tony Curtis in an episode of "The Persuaders!" entitled "The Long Goodbye". He appeared late in the episode as David Piper, a former clerk in a company who was elevated to a substantially higher position and salary as his reward for installing an explosive device in an aeroplane that killed its pilot. The pilot was a noted scientist whose research would have been detrimental to the company that employed Piper.

Sallis was cast in a one-off pilot for Comedy Playhouse entitled "Of Funerals and Fish" (1973), which became Last of the Summer Wine, as the unobtrusive lover of a quiet life, Norman Clegg. Sallis had already worked with Michael Bates, who played unofficial ring-leader Blamire in the first two series, on stage. The pilot was successful and the BBC commissioned a series. Sallis played the role of Clegg from 1973 to 2010, and was the only cast member to appear in every episode. In 1988 he appeared as Clegg's father in First of the Summer Wine, a prequel to Last of the Summer Wine set in 1939.

In 1974 he played Mr Bonteen in the BBC period drama The Pallisers. Between 1976 and 1978 he appeared in the children's series The Ghosts of Motley Hall, in which he played Mr Gudgin, an estate agent who did not want to see the hall fall into the wrong hands. In 1977 he played Rodney Gloss in the BBC series Murder Most English.

In 1978, he starred alongside Northern comic actor David Roper in the ITV sitcom Leave it to Charlie as Charlie's pessimistic boss. The programme ran for four series, ending in 1980. Also in 1978, he played the part of the ghost hunter Milton Guest in the children's paranormal drama series The Clifton House Mystery.

In 1983, he was the narrator on Rocky Hollow a show produced by Bumper Films who later produce Fireman Sam. Between 1984 and 1989, he alternated with Ian Carmichael as the voice of Rat in the British television series The Wind in the Willows, based on the book by Kenneth Grahame and produced by Cosgrove Hall Films. Alongside him were Michael Hordern as Badger, David Jason as Toad and Richard Pearson as Mole. The series was animated in stop motion, prefiguring his work with Aardman Animations. He appeared in the last episode of Rumpole of the Bailey in 1992 and he later starred alongside Brenda Blethyn, Kevin Whately and Anna Massey in the 2004 one-off ITV1 drama Belonging.

Sallis achieved great success when, in 1989 he voiced Wallace, the eccentric inventor in Aardman Animations' Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out. This film won a BAFTA award and was followed by the Oscar-winning films The Wrong Trousers in 1993 and A Close Shave in 1995. Though the characters were temporarily retired in 1996, Sallis has returned to voice Wallace in several short films and in the Oscar-winning 2005 motion picture Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, for which he won an Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production. In 2008 Sallis voiced a new Wallace and Gromit adventure, A Matter of Loaf and Death. Most recently, in 2010 he provided the voice for Wallace in the TV show Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention. After Sallis retired the role, he passed the voice of Wallace to Ben Whitehead.

Sallis was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2007 for services to Drama. On 17 May 2009 he appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs.[4]

Autobiography[edit]

In 2006, Sallis published a well-received autobiography entitled, with typical self-deprecation, Fading into the Limelight. Roger Lewis in the Mail on Sunday stated "Though Sallis is seemingly submissive, he has a sly wit and sharp intelligence that make this book a total delight."

Sallis starred with Orson Welles in Welles' stage play, Moby Dick—Rehearsed and tells of a later meeting with him where he received a mysterious telephone call summoning him to the deserted and spooky Gare d'Orsay in Paris where Welles announced he wanted him to dub Hungarian bit-players in his cinema adaptation of Kafka's The Trial. As Sallis says "the episode was Kafka-esque, to coin a phrase."

Despite his nearly 37 years in Last of the Summer Wine, this is far from the main focus of the book, in which Sallis also recounts the early era of his relationship with Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park when it took six years for A Grand Day Out to be completed. He says that his work as Wallace has "raised his standing a few notches in the public eye".

Personal life[edit]

Sallis suffers from macular degeneration and in 2005 recorded an appeal on BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Macular Disease Society. He recorded a television appeal on behalf of the society which was broadcast on BBC One on 8 March 2009. In 2014, Nick Park said that Sallis is "not too well" and that problems with his eyes are worsening, therefore blighting possibilities that he may voice Wallace again.[5]

Television roles[edit]

1958 Samuel Pepys! Samuel Pepys
1967 Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors Penley
1970 Catweazle Stuffy Goldstone
1971 The Persuaders! David Piper
1973–2010 Last of the Summer Wine Norman Clegg
1974 The Pallisers Mr. Bonteen
1974 The Capone Investment Wheatfield
1976–1978 The Ghosts of Motley Hall Mr Gudgin
1978 The Clifton House Mystery Milton Guest
1978–1980 Leave It To Charlie Arthur Simister
1984–1989 The Wind in the Willows Voice of Rat
1987 The New Statesman Sidney Bliss
1988–1989 First of the Summer Wine Mr Clegg
1989–2010 Wallace and Gromit Voice of Wallace
2009 Kingdom Cyril

References[edit]

External links[edit]