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Peter Sallis, OBE (1 February 1921 – 2 June 2017) was an English actor, known for his work on British television. He was the voice of Wallace in the Academy Award-honored Wallace and Gromit films and played Norman "Cleggy" Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine from its 1973 inception until its final episode in 2010, making him the only actor to appear in all 295 episodes.

Peter Sallis
OBE
Peter Sallis.jpg
Sallis in October 2008
Born (1921-02-01)1 February 1921
Twickenham, Middlesex, England
Died 2 June 2017(2017-06-02) (aged 96)
Northwood, London, England
Occupation Actor
Years active 1946–2010
Known for Wallace and Gromit,
Last of the Summer Wine
Spouse(s) Elaine Usher
(m. 1957; div. 1965)
Children Crispian Sallis

Although Sallis was born and brought up in London, his two best remembered roles required him to adopt the accent and mannerisms of a Northerner. He also voiced Rat in The Wind in the Willows, appeared in Danger Man in the episode "Find and Destroy" (1961) as Gordon, appeared in the BBC Doctor Who serial "The Ice Warriors" (1967), playing renegade scientist Elric Penley, and appeared in an episode of The Persuaders! ("The Long Goodbye", 1971). Other appearances include The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970). He retired from acting in 2012 and died in 2017, aged 96.[1]

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Peter Sallis was born on 1 February 1921 in Twickenham, Middlesex, the only child of bank manager Harry Sallis (1889–1964) originally from Chios, Greece and Dorothy Amea Frances (née Barnard; 1891–1975).[2][3] After attending Minchenden Grammar School in Southgate, north London, Sallis went to work in a bank, working on shipping transactions. After the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the RAF. He was unable to serve as aircrew because of a serum albumin disorder and was told he might black out at high altitudes.[citation needed] He became a wireless mechanic instead and went on to teach radio procedures at RAF Cranwell.[4]

Early careerEdit

Theatre workEdit

Sallis began his career as an amateur actor during his four years with the RAF when one of his students offered him the lead in an amateur production of Noël Coward's Hay Fever.[5] After his success in the role, he resolved to become an actor after the war, winning a Korda scholarship and training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his first professional appearance on the London stage in September 1946 in a walk-on part in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Scheming Lieutenant (1775).[4]

Sallis then spent three years in rep before appearing in his first speaking role on the London stage in 1949.[4] Other roles followed in the 1950s and 1960s including Orson Welles' 1955 production of Moby Dick—Rehearsed.[5] In his autobiography, Fading into the Limelight, Sallis recounts a later meeting with Welles where he received a mysterious telephone call summoning him to the deserted 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 (1962). As Sallis wrote, "the episode was Kafka-esque, to coin a phrase". Later, he was in the first West End production of Cabaret in 1968 opposite Judi Dench.[6]

Sallis appeared in the Hal Prince-produced musical She Loves Me in 1963.[7] Though not a success it led to him making his Broadway debut the following year. Prince was producer of a musical based on the work of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes called Baker Street. Sallis was asked by Prince to take the role of Dr. Watson to Fritz Weaver's Sherlock Holmes. The show ran for six months on Broadway.[7] Just before Baker Street ended he was offered the role of Wally in John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence, which had been played by Arthur Lowe in London with Nicol Williamson reprising the lead role. The production was troubled with Williamson hitting producer David Merrick with a bottle and walking out before being persuaded to continue. The show was a minor success and ran for six months in New York, opening at the Belasco Theater before transferring to the Shubert Theater.[7] Sallis reprised his role in the 1968 film adaptation.[8]

Television and filmsEdit

Sallis' first extended television role was as Samuel Pepys in the BBC serial of the same name in 1958.[4] He appeared in Danger Man in the episode "Find and Destroy" (1961) as Gordon.[9] He appeared in the BBC Doctor Who story "The Ice Warriors" (1967), playing renegade scientist Elric Penley;[10] and in 1983 was due to play the role of Striker in another Doctor Who serial, "Enlightenment", but had to withdraw.[11]

He was cast in the BBC comedy series The Culture Vultures (1970), which saw him play stuffy Professor George Hobbs to Leslie Phillips's laid-back rogue Dr Michael Cunningham.[12] During the production, Phillips was rushed to hospital with an internal haemorrhage and as a result, only five episodes were completed.[13]

Sallis acted alongside Roger Moore and Tony Curtis in an episode of The Persuaders! ("The Long Goodbye", 1971).[14] He appeared in many British films of the 1960s and 1970s including Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960),[15] Doctor in Love (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961),[15] The V.I.P.s (1963),[15] Charlie Bubbles (1967),[15] Scream and Scream Again (1969), Taste the Blood of Dracula, Wuthering Heights (1970),[15] The Incredible Sarah (1976)[15] and Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978).[16] Additionally in 1968, he was cast as the well-intentioned Coker in a BBC Radio production of John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids.[17]

He played a priest in the TV film Frankenstein: The True Story (1973), and the following year he played Mr Bonteen in the BBC period drama The Pallisers.[8]

Later careerEdit

Sallis was cast in a pilot for Comedy Playhouse which became the first episode of Last of the Summer Wine (retrospectively titled "Of Funerals and Fish", 1973), as the unobtrusive lover of a quiet life, Norman Clegg.[5] The pilot was successful and the BBC commissioned a series. Sallis had already worked on stage with Michael Bates, who played the unofficial ringleader Blamire in the first two series. Sallis played the role of Clegg from 1973 to 2010, and was the only cast member to appear in every episode. He also appeared, in 1988, as Clegg's father in First of the Summer Wine,[8] a prequel to Last of the Summer Wine set in 1939.

He appeared in the children's series The Ghosts of Motley Hall (1976–78), in which he played Arnold Gudgin, an estate agent who did not want to see the hall fall into the wrong hands,[8] and he played Rodney Gloss in the BBC series Murder Most English (1977).[18] In the same period, he starred alongside Northern comic actor David Roper in the ITV sitcom Leave it to Charlie as Charlie's pessimistic boss.[19] The programme ran for four series, ending in 1980. Sallis also played the part of the ghost-hunter Milton Guest in the children's paranormal drama series The Clifton House Mystery (1978).[20]

Sallis was the narrator on Rocky Hollow (1983), a show produced by Bumper Films, who later produced Fireman Sam, and alternated with Ian Carmichael as the voice of Rat in the British television series The Wind in the Willows (1984–89), 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. Also in 1983 he played the lead character Jim Bloggs, alongside Brenda Bruce as Hilda, in a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Raymond Briggs' When the Wind Blows.[21][22] Sallis appeared in the last episode of Rumpole of the Bailey (1992)[23] and he later starred alongside Brenda Blethyn, Kevin Whately and Anna Massey in the one-off ITV1 drama Belonging (2004).[24]

While a student in 1983, animator Nick Park wrote to Sallis asking him if he would voice his character Wallace, an eccentric inventor. Sallis agreed to do so for a donation of £50 to his favourite charity.[25] The work was eventually released in 1989 and Aardman Animations' Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out went on to great success winning a BAFTA award.[25] Sallis reprised his role in the Oscar- and BAFTA Award-winning films The Wrong Trousers in 1993 and A Close Shave in 1995.[5]

Though the characters were temporarily retired in 1996, Sallis 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.[5] In 2008, Sallis voiced a new Wallace and Gromit adventure, A Matter of Loaf and Death.[5] After the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Sallis's eyesight began to fail as a result of macular degeneration and he used a talking portable typewriter with a specially illuminated scanner to continue working.[5] His last role as Wallace was in 2010's Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention.[5] Sallis then retired due to ill health, with Ben Whitehead taking over the role.[5]

AutobiographyEdit

In 2006, Sallis published a well-received autobiography entitled (with his typical self-deprecation) Fading into the Limelight.[26] Roger Lewis in The Mail on Sunday commented that "though Sallis is seemingly submissive, he has a sly wit and sharp intelligence that make this book a total delight".[27] 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".[28]

Personal lifeEdit

Sallis married actress Elaine Usher at St. John's Wood Church in London on 9 February 1957.[29][2][30] However, it was a turbulent relationship, with Usher leaving him 16 times before they divorced in 1965 on grounds of desertion and adultery.[4] They were eventually reconciled and continued to live together until 1999; however Sallis remained close to Usher until her death in 2014.[5][31][32] They had one son, Crispian Sallis (born 1959), who went on to become an Oscar-nominated film set designer.[5]

Sallis suffered from macular degeneration,[5] and in 2005 recorded an appeal on BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Macular Society of which he was a patron.[33] He also recorded on behalf of the society a television appeal, which was broadcast on BBC One on 8 March 2009. Following his diagnosis of the disease, Aardman produced a short animated film for the society.[34]

Sallis was awarded the OBE in the 2007 Birthday Honours for services to Drama.[5] On 17 May 2009, he appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs, selecting Sibelius' Symphony No. 5 in E flat major as his favourite.[35]

DeathEdit

Sallis died at the Denville Hall nursing home in Northwood, London, on 2 June 2017. He was 96.[36]

FilmographyEdit

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1958 The Diary of Samuel Pepys[4] Samuel Pepys
1961 Danger Man John Gordon in Episode titled Find and Destroy
1964 The Avengers Steeds colleague and friend Hal Anderson in Episode titled The Wringer
1967 Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors[8] Penley
1970 Catweazle Stuffy Gladstone
1970 The Culture Vultures Professor George Hobbes
1971 The Persuaders![8] David Piper
1973–2010 Last of the Summer Wine[8] Norman Clegg (final television appearance)
1973 Frankenstein: The True Story Priest
1974 The Pallisers[8] Mr. Bonteen
1974 Who Killed Lamb?[8] Lloyd
1974 The Capone Investment Wheatfield
1976–1978 The Ghosts of Motley Hall[8] Mr Gudgin
1978 The Clifton House Mystery[8] Milton Guest
1978–1980 Leave It To Charlie [8] Arthur Simister
1984–1990 The Wind in the Willows[8] Rat Voice
1987 The New Statesman Sidney Bliss
1988–1989 First of the Summer Wine[8] Mr David Clegg
1989 A Grand Day Out Wallace Voice
1993 The Wrong Trousers
1995 A Close Shave
2008 A Matter of Loaf and Death
2009 Kingdom[8] Cyril
2010 Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention[5] Wallace Voice

FilmographyEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (5 June 2017). "Peter Sallis, Voice of Wallace in ‘Wallace & Gromit’ Films, Dies at 96". Variety. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Who's Who in the Theatre, sixteenth edition, Ian Herbert et al, 1977, pg 1094
  3. ^ Summer Wine and other stories, Peter Sallis, 2014, John Blake Publishing, pg 4
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Peter Sallis dead: Last of the Summer Wine actor who found fame in latter years as Wallace and Gromit voiceover". Independent. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Peter Sallis Obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  6. ^ "Wallace and Gromit actor Peter Sallis dies, aged 96". www.msn.com. 5 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c Sallis, Peter. Fading Into The Limelight. ISBN 9781409105725. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq "Peter Sallis". BFI. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  9. ^ ""Danger Man" Find and Destroy (1961)". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  10. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (29 June 2009). "The Ice Warriors". Radio Times. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  11. ^ Campbell, Mark (2011). Doctor Who The Episode Guide. Oldcastle Books. p. 104. ISBN 9781842436608. 
  12. ^ "Last of the Summer Wine and Wallace and Gromit actor Peter Sallis dies aged 96". Radio Times. 5 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  13. ^ "25 Curious British TV Comedies That Only Had One Series". Curious British Telly. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  14. ^ Contemporary Legend: The Journal of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research. 5. Hisarlik Press. 1995. p. 36. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f McFarlane, Brian, ed. (2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film: Fourth edition. Oxford University Press. p. 1998. ISBN 9781526111968. 
  16. ^ Lentz, Harris M. (1983). Science fiction, horror and fantasy film and television credits. McFarland. p. 1162. ISBN 9780899500706. 
  17. ^ "John Wyndham: A BBC Radio Drama Collection". Penguin Random House. 
  18. ^ Baskin, Ellen (1996). Serials on British Television, 1950–1994. Scolar Press. p. 147. ISBN 9781859280157. 
  19. ^ Castleman, Harry; Podrazik, Walter J. (1989). Harry and Wally's favorite TV shows. Prentice Hall Press. p. 285. ISBN 9780139332500. 
  20. ^ Docherty, Mark J.; McGown, Alistair D. (2003). The Hill and Beyond: Children's Television Drama – An Encyclopedia (illustrated ed.). British Film Institute. p. 125. ISBN 9780851708782. 
  21. ^ "The Monday Play: When the Wind Blows – BBC Radio 4 FM – 7 February 1983 – BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  22. ^ "BBC – Radio 4 – Radio and the Artist – Raymond Briggs". www.bbc.co.uk. 
  23. ^ Lane, Andy; Simpson, Paul (2005). The Art of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit (illustrated ed.). Titan. p. 37. ISBN 9781845762155. 
  24. ^ "Belonging (2004)". www.themoviescene.co.uk. 
  25. ^ a b "Last of the Summer Wine star Peter Sallis has died". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  26. ^ Sallis, Peter (2006). Fading Into The Limelight: The Autobiography (illustrated ed.). Orion. ISBN 9780752875965. 
  27. ^ "Peter Sallis dies at 96". www.chortle.co.uk. 5 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  28. ^ Ritman, Alex (5 June 2017). "Peter Sallis, Voice of Wallace in 'Wallace & Gromit' Films, Dies at 96". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  29. ^ "Sallis Marries Usher". London Evening Standard. gettyimages.co.uk. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  30. ^ Melanie Dakin (3 October 2007). "Don't give Peter Sallis any Wensleydale, please Grommit". Bucks Free Press. Retrieved 17 February 2016. 
  31. ^ "Peter Sallis obituary". The Guardian. 5 June 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  32. ^ "Letter: Peter Sallis obituary". The Guardian. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2017. 
  33. ^ "Sideview" (PDF). Macular Disease Society. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  34. ^ "Aardman Animations makes charity film following diagnosis of Gromit and Wallace actor with macular degeneration". Homecare. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  35. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs, Peter Sallis". BBC. 
  36. ^ "Actor Peter Sallis dies aged 96. Sallis died of Natural Causes.". BBC News. 
  37. ^ "Peter Sallis". IMDb. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  38. ^ "The Incredible Adventures of Wallace & Gromit (Video 2001)". Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  39. ^ "Wallace & Gromit's Cracking Contraptions (TV Series 2002– )". Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  40. ^ "Colour Me Kubrick IMDB Cast". IMDB. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 

External linksEdit