Not just the man behind Darth Vader’s mask…
Recalling the many roles from this character actor and more.
Green Cross Code 1, IArcade
Long long ago before I knew of the films set in a galaxy, far, far away, I’d been brought up like every generation to learn the Green Cross Code to cross the road safely. In the late 1970s, this was reinforced on the telly by the Green Cross Code man, in a string of public service films for kids the length and width of the UK.
The Green Cross Code man was a genial giant in fetching green and white costume who’d appear as if by magic. This to help a wee 1970s kid to cross the road, with some friendly safety advice. The actor who played the Green Cross Code man in these “adverts” was six foot six character actor, David Prowse. So it was sad to learn of David Prowse, a childhood influence of the best kind, passing away recently as it was he had been an influential part of my childhood.
This actor was also a trained bodybuilder and had won the British heavyweight weightlifting title as a young man. During this time he had competed with both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. Off-screen, Prowse used these talents as he trained up both Christopher Reeve for his Superman (1978) role and Cary Elwes for his performance in The Princess Bride (1987). Also off-screen, Prowse also reportedly a personal trainer for Daniel Day Lewis and others.
On-screen, he made his presence in many film franchises. These including Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975) and in he and a Carry on film, Carry on Henry (1971). He also appeared in a James Bond movie, as one of the all-star cast in the James Bond parody, Casino Royale (1967). He starred with the man who was Bond, Roger Moore in a larger role in an episode of The Saint (1969). Prowse also made an appearance with Jon Pertwee in a role in Doctor Who in the early 1970s.
In the late sixties to late seventies, he was also a guest star to a multitude of British comedians on their TV Shows. He starred as himself, with the likes of The Two Ronnies, Benny Hill, Dick Emery and Morecambe and Wise. He also appeared in a small role in Hammer horror films such as Vampire Circus (1972). More surprising appearances at this time included those in Little House on the Prairie (1975) and Space 1999 (1976).
After he was directed by Stanley Kubrick in The Clockwork Orange (1971), Prowse was noticed by George Lucas who asked him to audition for one of his more famous villainous roles. This was his most remembered film presence as Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. Prowse was the actor giving Darth Vader’s towering physical presence. However, in his appearances, his distinctive British accent was dubbed over by the American actor, James Earl Jones.
At his audition for Star Wars, Prowse was offered the part of Darth Vader or Chewbacca. He reportedly chose the Darth Vader role, as “Everyone remembers the villain”. He played this character in the whole of the original trilogy and was affectionately nicknamed “Farmer Darth” by the cast. However, I’ll always remember David Prowse as not just a villain or comedy turn, but in a more serious role as this gentle English superhero, with a West Country accent of the seventies screen appears just before I cross the road.