Peter Sallis, OBE (born 1 February 1921) is a retired 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 accent 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, as well as the only actor who played a member of the original trio still living (Michael Bates died in 1978, and Bill Owen died in 1999). 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 reportedly retired from acting and has not appeared or voiced on film or TV since 2012.
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 Art, 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. Their son, Timothy Crispian Sallis, was born in 1959.
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 many British films of the 1960s and 1970s including Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Doctor in Love, The Curse of the Werewolf, The V.I.P.s, Charlie Bubbles, Scream and Scream Again, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Wuthering Heights, The Incredible Sarah and Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?. 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.
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. 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 1965. 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 inFirst of the Summer Wine, a prequel to Last of the Summer Wine set in 1939.
In 1973 he played a priest in the TV movie Frankenstein: The True Story, and the following year 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 Arnold 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 produced Fireman Sam. Between 1984 and 1989, he alternated with Ian Carmichaelas 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 wereMichael 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 dramaBelonging.
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 BAFTAaward 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 Awardfor 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.
- The Wind in the Willows (1983-1988) - Ratty
- Oliver (1988) - Additional voices
- Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out (1989) - Wallace
- The Wind in the Willows: A Tale of Two Toads (1989) - Ratty
- Oh, Mr. Toad (1990-) - Ratty
- Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (1993) - Wallace
- Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave (1995) - Wallace
- Wallace and Gromit's Cracking Contraptions (2002-) - Wallace
- Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) - Wallace
- Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008) - Wallace