Bill Wallis

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Bill Wallis
Bill Wallis Actor.jpg
Bill Wallis
William Wallis

20 November 1936
Died6 September 2013(2013-09-06) (aged 76)[2]
Bath, Somerset, England
OccupationActor, comedian
Spouse(s)Jean Spalding
Karen Mills

William Wallis (20 November 1936 – 6 September 2013) was an English character actor and comedian who appeared in numerous radio[3] and television roles,[4][5][6] as well as in the theatre.

Wallis was born in Guildford in Surrey, the only son of Albert Wallis, a trainee fishmonger turned engineer, and his wife, Anne, a nurse. He attended Farnham Grammar School from 1948 to 1955, where he was head boy. He gained a State Scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge, and while at Cambridge met Peter Cook and David Frost.[1] When Cook and the team took Beyond the Fringe to Broadway, Wallis took over the roles played by Alan Bennett.

Wallis appeared in a number of television programmes including Chelmsford 123, Doctor at Large (1971), ITV's production of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, the BBC's adaptation of John Masefield's book The Box of Delights (1984), the first series of Blackadder (drunken knight), Blackadder II (Ploppy the Gaoler), Blackadder Goes Forth (Agent Brigadier Smith), Just Good Friends (A. J. Styles) and Yes, Prime Minister. One longstanding role was that of the hard-drinking Dr Nick McKenzie in the BBC drama Dangerfield, from 1995 until 1998. He appeared as Gestapo-man Werner Beck in award-winning War and Remembrance (1988). He also appeared briefly in the first episode of ITV's Midsomer Murders, apparently driving a Morgan sports car. In fact this was pushed by other cast members, as he did not hold a driving licence. He appeared in Not Only... But Also with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, alongside comic actors John Wells and Joe Melia, singing the absurdist comic song "Alan a' Dale". He appeared in the original London cast of the unsuccessful Andrew Lloyd Webber/Alan Ayckbourn musical Jeeves in 1975. He presented and narrated a semi-dramatised documentary titled A Pleasant Terror on the life and works of M. R. James, broadcast by ITV in December 1995.

Some of his most frequent appearances were on BBC Radio 4 for The Afternoon Play and the Classic Serial, but he was also in the cast of the long-running sketch show Week Ending, and in the first episode of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1978, originating the roles of Mr. Prosser and Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz. He reprised the latter in the second episode and in one episode of the second series; however, due to unavailability, the roles of Jeltz and (briefly) Prosser were taken over by Toby Longworth. He played Winston Hayballs in Peter Tinniswood's Winston series. He also featured as the third party in the " approached by Ivor Cutler" series of short humorous pieces, including playing the Miner, the Farmer and the Sheet Metal Worker.

Wallis also read audiobooks, among them unabridged productions of Robert Harris's first two novels about the life of Cicero, Imperium (2006) and Lustrum (2009). The third and final novel, Dictator (2015) was not published until after Wallis's death. Wallis's role as narrator was taken over by David Rintoul.

His film appearances include The Bed Sitting Room (1969), The Romantic Englishwoman (1975), The Orchard End Murder (1981), Brazil (1985), The Whistle Blower (1986), The Great Escape II: The Untold Story (1988), The Fool (1990), Splitting Heirs (1993), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1997) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008).

He had two children with his first wife, the cellist Jean Spalding, and two children with his second wife, the artist and lecturer Dr Karen Wallis (née Mills), whom he married in 1979.[7] He suffered from multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer, but was able to continue performing in audio and radio work.[1] Wallis died at his home in Bath on 6 September 2013.[2][8]


Year Title Role Notes
1969 The Bed Sitting Room The Prime Minister
1975 Galileo Supporting Monk
1975 The Romantic Englishwoman Hendrick
1981 The Orchard End Murder Railway Gatekeeper
1985 Brazil Bespectacled Lurker
1986 The Whistle Blower Ramsay Dodgson
1988 The Great Escape II: The Untold Story Schatz TV movie
1990 Crimestrike Edward Lovegarden
1990 The Fool Henry Beauchamp-Harper
1993 Splitting Heirs Vicar at Hunt
1993 Son of the Pink Panther President
1997 Keep the Aspidistra Flying Mr. Cheeseman
2003 Wondrous Oblivion Newsreel Commentary Voice
2008 The Other Boleyn Girl Archbishop Cranmer (final film role)


  1. ^ a b c Coveney, Michael (17 September 2013). "Bill Wallis obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Obituary - Wallis". Farnham Herald. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  3. ^ The radio companion By Paul Donovan. HarperCollins, 1991
  4. ^ Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams By M. J. Simpson
  5. ^ Bill Wallis, Short Biography: Archived 19 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine BBC Audiobooks America
  6. ^ Bill Wallis Interview Actor Bill Wallis discusses his work as a reader for audiobooks.
  7. ^ "Karen Wallis". Archived from the original on 25 February 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  8. ^ 'Actor Bill Wallis dies at home in Bath' = Bath Chronicle - 19 September 2013[permanent dead link]

Mentions Wallis being based in Bath

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