Actor Peter Sallis has become well-known not just through Last Of The Summer Wine, but through many other projects. NEIL ATKINSON takes a look at his autobigraphy
VETERAN actor Peter Sallis has worked with the very best.
The star of stage and screen has been reminiscing about his half-century in the entertainment business.
And in his new autobiography, Fading Into The Limelight, he shares memories of those projects with the famous.
Names like John Gielgud, Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench and Honor Blackman litter the pages.
But the man who joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) at the end of the Second World War admits some of his happiest times have been spent in Huddersfield and Holmfirth - filming the world's longest-running TV comedy series Last Of the Summer Wine, in which he plays a dotty old man.
He has also found lasting fame as the voice of Plasticine man Wallace - of Wallace and Gromit.
Sallis admits that Summer Wine, in which he plays Clegg, has thrown up entertainment's greatest comic character.
He says: "When Bill Owen died and Compo died, we lost, in my opinion, the best comedy performance that has ever been seen on television.
"Bill Owen and Compo had absolutely nothing in common, except that they both weighed the same and they were the same height.
"He created, with Roy Clarke's help, this character who should have had some sort of an award, a BAFTA or something, for this extraordinary performance.
"I have been watching television since 1938 and I have never seen a more complete or utter transformation of someone's character as Bill created.
"Wilfred Brambell was marvellous in Steptoe and Son, but while he was doing it you could still see Wilfred through the gauze.
"For a start, Bill was a Cockney, he had never been anywhere near Yorkshire in his life. The second thing was that he was very smart, Bill dressed very well. He liked to put on a bit of a show.
"His whole creation of Compo was something that was alive."
Sallis's involvement with the show has spanned every series, every episode, and he would love to see it continue.
But the 85-year-old is waiting at his London home to see if the BBC are prepared to commission another series.
And he admits he finds it hard.
The title of his book is particularly poignant.
His eyesight is fading rapidly - so much so that he has had to abandon radio work and now relies on a machine to scan and read documents and scripts.
"I call the machine Jane. She's got a lovely nice English voice.
"I can't function without her.
"The fading sight makes everything hard work.
"I used to love coming up to Yorkshire to film Summer Wine, but then again we were there in the spring and summer.
"Holmfirth is a lovely place but I don't think I could survive one of those winters.
"I have loved Wine over the years and I still want to go on.
"I shall be very sad if it does finally come to an end. It has almost been my life."
The scholarship at RADA led Sallis into the theatre and a career in which he worked with the very best.
In the book he recalls the shows in which he appeared with many of Britain's finest actors.
"John Gielgud. We had just that one week of Nude With Violin before I was fired but while it was happening I enjoyed it so much. I suppose the simple truth is I enjoyed it too much.
"But it was great being on stage with such a lovely actor and such a lovely man. I enjoyed every minute of it and was so sorry when it came to an end so abruptly but at least I had done one week.
"Orson Welles. I think that Orson was loveable. Not to everybody, probably. I would not have liked to have caught him in one of his rages.
"Well, I did actually, but it was not directed at me and it was short-lived.
"I was so fond of him and enjoyed his company so much that I was lucky enough to have it for some time and he was an extremely gifted man.
"Ralph Richardson. In Witness For The Prosecution I was Sir Ralph's valet, we had scenes together, short scenes in front of the camera and he was lovely.
"I admired him right from the word go, everybody did. He was the best Falstaff I have ever seen, easily the best".
On a less serious but perhaps more successful note, Sallis is now known across the world - for his role as a Plasticine man.
He, of course is the voice of Wallace in the hit series created by Nick Park.
But it took a long time.
Sallis recalled how in 1983, he agreed to meet a young student called Park at Beaconsfield Film School and record a voice for an animated film he was making.
He sat down with Park in front of a microphone and read through the script for a story called A Grand Day Out.
It took only a few hours, but it was to be six years before Sallis got a telephone call from Park, saying that the film was now ready. The rest, as they say, is history.
Wallace and Gromit became an instant hit, spawned more films and another cult TV series called Creature Comforts and led to an Oscar for the latest film, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit.
Sallis said: "Never work with animals or children they say, but I think the way they created Gromit and the way the animators manipulated him was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
"I have been so lucky to work with talented people like that over so many years.
"We actors love to work, you know, and I am grateful I have been so busy."