Peter Sallis hailed from a generation of British working actors who managed to appear on TV and in movies consistently throughout the course of his 60-odd-year career. In his native England, he may be most celebrated for his work on the long, long, long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine, which ran from 1973 to 2010, and on which Sallis played the character of Norman “Cleggy” Clegg throughout its entire run of 295 episodes.
In America, however, Sallis may be most recognized for playing the voice of Wallace in Nick Park’s Oscar-winning series of short films Wallace & Gromit.
Peter Sallis’ friendly face and plummy voice made him instantly approachable and even familial. He was expert in playing approachable kooks and humane, funny humans. A long-working supporting player, Sallis cropped up on episodes of Doctor Who and The Persuaders!, as well as in well-regarded horror films like Frankenstein: The True Story (made for the BBC), Scream and Scream Again, and the fifth of the Hammer Dracula films, Taste the Blood of Dracula.
Wallace, however, is easily the most recognized of Sallis’ characters worldwide, and the Wallace & Gromit shorts and films, which began in 1989 and continued sporadically until 2008. Wallace was and on-and-off inventor who lived in a typical British suburb with his mute dog Gromit, who was an accomplished engineer. Innocent, feckless, and usually very happy, Wallace represented a childlike indomitability of spirit, while Gromit frequently had to bring him back down to Earth. The delight of the Wallace & Gromit films was often celebrated by the Academy Awards, and each film of theirs was at least nominated for an Oscar, and three of them (The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, and the feature film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) won.
Sallis retired from acting in 2010 when his eyesight deteriorated, and he was unable to play the roles he wanted to. On June 2, 2017, BBC reports, he died in a nursing home, surrounded by family, at the age of 96.
The Many Adventures of Wallace & Gromit
Top Image: Aardman
Witney Seibold is a longtime contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and the TV podcast Canceled Too Soon. He also contributes to Legion of Leia, Nerdist, and Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.