Peter Sallis

Peter Sallis

Infobox actor
name = Peter Sallis

imagesize =
caption =
birthname = Peter Sallis
birthdate = birth date and age|1921|2|1|df=yes
birthplace = Twickenham, England
othername =
occupation = Actor, Singer, Musician, Entertainer
yearsactive = 1947–present
spouse = Elaine Usher (?–present)
children = Crispian Sallis
awards = Annie - Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production
2006 "" - Wallace / Hutch

Peter Sallis OBE (born 1 February 1921, Twickenham, then Middlesex now Greater London, England) is an Annie Award-winning English actor and entertainer, well known for his work on British television. Despite being born and raised in London, his two most notable roles require him to adopt the accents and mannerisms of a Northerner.

Sallis is best known for his role as the main character Norman Clegg in the long-running British TV comedy "Last of the Summer Wine", set in a Yorkshire town, and is currently the longest serving cast member.

He is also famous for providing the voice for Wallace in the Wallace and Gromit films, utilising another Northern accent. However his long career has included many other stage, film and TV appearances.


After attending Minchenden Grammar School in North London, Sallis started as an amateur actor in the RAF during World War II. He failed to get into the aircrew because of a medical problem and so taught radio procedures at RAF Cranwell. During his four years with the RAF, 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. Numerous appearances in London’s West End then followed, such as the Orson Welles directed production "Rhinoceros" (1960) at the Royal Court, co-starring Sir Laurence Olivier.

He also appeared in a couple of the most notable Hammer Horror Films including "The Curse of the Werewolf" and "Taste the Blood of Dracula"; in the latter he plays a leading role as a Victorian/Edwardian gentleman, one of three who betrays Dracula and has to face his revenge.

His first notable television role was as Samuel Pepys in the BBC serial of the same name in 1958. He appeared in the "Doctor Who" story "The Ice Warriors" in 1968, playing renegade scientist Elric Penley; and in 1983 was due to play the role of Striker in another Doctor Who story, "Enlightenment" before having to withdraw. In 1970 he was cast in the BBC comedy "The Culture Vultures", which saw him play stuffy Professor George Hobbs to Leslie Phillips' 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 ever made.

Sallis was cast in a one-off pilot for "Comedy Playhouse" entitled "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 proved popular and the BBC commissioned a series. As of 2007 Sallis is still playing the role of Clegg, and is one of only three cast members remaining from the original "Comedy Playhouse" pilot, Kathy Staff, who plays Nora Batty, and Jane Freeman who plays Ivy, the cafe owner, being the other two. 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.

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 eponymous hall fall into the wrong hands.

In 1978 he starred alongside northern comic actor David Roper for the ITV sitcom "Leave it to Charlie" as Charlie's (Roper) pessimistic boss. The programme lasted for four series, ending in 1980.

In 1983 he was the narrator on "Rocky Hollow" a show produced by Bumper Films for S4C before "Fireman Sam" and "Joshua Jones" were made.

Between 1984 and 1990, 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. 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.

Sallis achieved great success when, in 1989 he voiced Wallace, the eccentric inventor in Aardman Animations' '. The made-for-television 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 '.

Sallis was then recruited to play the part of Sidney Bliss in two episodes of "The New Statesman". Bliss was a pub landlord and ex-hangman in main character Alan B'Stard's constituency.

Sallis suffers from macular degeneration and in 2005 recorded an appeal on BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Macular Degeneration Society.

Sallis is currently starring in the 29th series of "Last of the Summer Wine". However, due to increasing frailty and difficulty with his sight, his appearances in the episodes are not as prolific as they once were. Clegg remains central to the storylines but is often seen only at the very beginning, middle and end of the episode. He is currently filming the 30th series of the show which will be aired in BBC1 in 2009. He was awarded an OBE in the Queen's 2007 Birthday Honours list for services to Drama.

As of the 2009 series of Last of the Summer Wine which is currently in production, Sallis along with co star Frank Thornton will no longer appear in outdoor scenes due to problems with insurance as both actors are now in their 88th year. Fact|date=May 2008

"Fading Into the Limelight"

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

Sallis recounts revealing tales from his lifetime as an actor: on a tour of Rhodesia, John Gielgud cheerfully told the press 'We've all been working like blacks.' Orson Welles had to travel round Paris in a converted cattle truck - he was too fat to fit in a taxi. When Laurence Olivier was on stage he became demonically possessed and his face turned a livid green. 'If it was acting it was frightening acting' says Sallis.

Sallis starred with Welles in his 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 adaptaion of Kafka's "The Trial". As Sallis says 'the episode was Kafka-esque, to coin a phrase.'

Despite his nearly 35 years in "Last Of The Summer Wine", this is far from the main focus of the book, in which Sallis 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 admits modestly that his work as Wallace has 'raised his standing a few notches in the public eye.'

Television roles

External links

*imdb name|id=0758608|name=Peter Sallis

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