Thanks to the – as of today – sadly departed Peter Sallis, what could have been portrayed as an obnoxious character – someone who gets his dog to do everything for him, before sussing that he did it all himself – was instead played with a charming and welcoming sense of naivety. Through his career-defining vocal performance, all that Wallace did never felt mean or unfriendly; just innocent and oblivious. It was the whimsical and gentle politeness of his voice that made many see the character to represent the best kind of British.
Sitcom may possibly be my favourite medium, but I’m not going to pretend I’ve ever watched Last of the Summer Wine. For me, Peter Sallis was Wallace – a character that has been part of my life since the first few years of it. I may not have watched when I was a baby, but I could hear and, by the time I was a toddler, Wallace’s voice already brought a warming sense of familiarity. Even in the pair’s feature outing – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) – performances from Ralph Phiennes and Helena Bonham-Carter were overshadowed by the then already 85-year-old Sallis.
In the early 80s, when student animator Nick Park first cast and paid Sallis £50 for A Grand Day Out (not finished until 1989), he unwittingly paired a cultural icon.
Hilarious to adults and friendly to children, I would like to thank the man whose voice brought a smile to all.
“Goodbye, Chuck.” Peter Sallis: 1921-2017.