THE actor Peter Sallis, OBE, has died peacefully, aged 96, with his family by his side at the Denville Hall nursing home in Northwood, London.
Although the actor’s long career stretches back to the 1940s he will always be remembered as Cleggy in the BBC’s long-running sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine and as the voice of Wallace in the animated series and films of Wallace and Gromit.
After the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the RAF and that’s where he was offered his first role in an amateur production.
His success in the role he resolved 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 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?.
His first notable television role was as Samuel Pepys in the BBC serial of the same name in 1958.
1971 saw Sallis acting alongside Roger Moore and Tony Curtis in an episode of The Persuaders! entitled “The Long Goodbye”.
Sallis was cast in a one-off pilot for Comedy Playhouse entitled “The Last of the Summer Wine” (retrospectively titled “Of Funerals and Fish”) (1973), as the unobtrusive lover of a quiet life, Norman Clegg.
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.
He achieved great success in 1989, when 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 from the role, he passed the voice of Wallace to Ben Whitehead.
In 2006, Sallis published a well-received autobiography entitled, with typical self-deprecation, Fading into the Limelight.
He suffered from macular degeneration, and in 2005, recorded an appeal on BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Macular Disease Society. He also recorded a television appeal on behalf of the society, which was broadcast on BBC One on 8 March 2009.
Sallis was awarded the OBE in the 2007 Birthday Honours for services to Drama.