Page last updated at 10:37 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009 11:37 UK

Argument 'threatened Summer Wine'

Last Of The Summer Wine
Sallis (left) with his original co-stars Michael Bates (centre) and Bill Owen

Last Of The Summer Wine actor Peter Sallis has revealed how a political argument nearly derailed the comedy series before it started.

Speaking to Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, Sallis said his co-stars Michael Bates and Bill Owen fell out over their political affiliations when they met.

"Michael was slightly to the right of Margaret Thatcher and Bill was slightly to the left of Lenin," he said.

"Within minutes they were shouting at each other."

"Not only was it embarrassing but it was incomprehensible because I have never had a political thought in my life."

Sallis said the row was resolved when the show's director, Jimmy Gilbert, removed Owen and Bates from the restaurant they were dining in and confronted them.

"When he came back, all was quiet," the 88-year-old actor recalled.

"Weeks later I said to him: 'What actually happened, then?'

"He said: 'Well, I took them outside and said, this has got to stop. If I am going to have two of the cast going at it like you two have been going at it this evening, I am going to pack up the whole thing and go back to London.

"That was all they needed, really, to shut up and they never talked politics ever again."

Thirty series

I hope we can do some more because it is Wind In The Willows, it is a lovely pastoral piece
Peter Sallis on the future of Last Of The Summer Wine

Last Of The Summer Wine has since clocked up 30 series, making it the world's longest-running sitcom. Sallis has played Norman Clegg in every episode.

Bates, who played Former Royal Signals Sergeant Cyril Blamire, left after two series in 1976, while Owen - best known as scruffy layabout Compo Simonite - died in 1999.

The most recent series, which co-starred comedian Russ Abbot, premiered in April 2009, but Sallis - who is also the voice of Wallace in the Wallace and Gromit animations - could not confirm whether the show would return.

"I hope that we can do some more because it is Wind In The Willows, it is a lovely pastoral piece," he said.

For his sojourn on Radio 4's notional Desert Island, the star chose to bring along The Collected Works of PG Wodehouse and a Meccano set.

Peter Sallis' appearance on Desert Island Discs is repeated on Radio 4 at 0900BST on Friday, 22 May.



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