Peter Sallis (1 February 1921 – 2 June 2017) was an English character actor, mainly known for his work on British television. He gained worldwide fame as the voice of inventor Wallace in the Wallace and Gromit films.
Although born and brought up in Twickenham, Middlesex, his two best remembered roles required him to adopt the accent and mannerisms of a Northerner. In addition to voicing the aforementioned Wallace, he famously played “Cleggy” in TV comedy series 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.
Most people are unaware that Peter Sallis also played a number of roles in the science fiction and horror genres that began with a werewolf and ended with a were-rabbit. Fittingly, Hammer Films set the ball rolling by casting him in a minor role as Don Enrique in their censor-baiting The Curse of the Werewolf (1961).
However, he later had a pivotal Hammer horror role as Samuel Paxton, one of the English Victorian ‘gentlemen’ seeking forbidden pleasures in Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969).
Paxton ends up gorily staked through the heart, although the only image of his demise available seems to be a double-page spread in Alan Frank’s Horror Films book (Octopus, 1976), so presumably it was originally censored by the BBFC?
The same year, Sallis also appeared in the bizarre Gordon Hessler-directed sci-fi/horror conspiracy thriller hybrid Scream and Scream Again.
In Roald Dahl’s darkly comedic psychological thriller The Night Digger (1971) Sallis essayed the role of an eccentric vicar, whilst Full Circle aka The Haunting of Julia (1977) offered him the chance to be a chivalrous neighbour trying to take Keir Dullea’s oafish character to task (only to be rudely pushed aside).
Meanwhile, his TV appearances included a 1959 adaptation of H.G.Wells’ Invisible Man; BBC Doctor Who story “The Ice Warriors” (1967), in which he playing renegade scientist Elric Penley; Jack Smight’s stately Frankenstein: The True Story (1973); 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 place fall into the wrong hands; and ghost-hunter Milton Guest in the children’s paranormal series The Clifton House Mystery (1978).
Yet, perhaps Peter Sallis’ most memorable and well-known horror-related role was in the twilight of his lengthy career, when he worked on Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in 2005.
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