I was saddened today to hear that David Prowse passed away. Growing up in Cornwall, I will always remember the day I met him.
David Prowse was a giant of a man, an obviously choice for the menacing Darth Vader, a role later dubbed – to David’s irritation – by James Earl Jones, somehow I would have loved to see the original version although I suspect a Sith Lord with a strong west country accent may have reduced some of the gravitas.
At the age of 7 my friends and I also knew him as “The Green Cross Code Man”, a low budget superhero who starred in a series of Public Service Announcement advertisements in the 1970s & 80s. It was in this character that he arrived at my primary school in a remote village in Cornwall, presenting on the dangers of our roads. I don’t think I truly appreciated it until now, he must have toured hundreds of schools during those years, countless young minds educated and, doubtless, lives saved. A role that earned him an MBE.
My friends and I gathered in the small assembly hall and – I will be honest – were a little disappointed that he had not worn his Darth Vader costume. We listened and watched unblinking as he went through his well-rehearsed speech with his heavy, warm & friendly accent. It was then that he called into the crowd for a volunteer, a swooshing noise clearly audible as every small arm shot into the air. Then something wonderful happened, he picked me. A hundred heads turned to watch as I stood and tentatively picked my way through rows of school friends sat cross-legged and a little warmer from envy. He asked me my name and a few other questions as my friends tittered in the crowd, he then grabbed me and I was launched up onto one of his broad shoulders, high above the crowd below. A sat there terrified and amazed – a memory I will never forget. Now when my family and I watch Star Wars I tell my kids – “I sat on his shoulder”, eyes roll – “yeah Dad, you told us already”.
The world may remember him as Darth Vader, but I remember him as a Lycra clad, green and white superhero who made me feel like his sidekick for a few minutes.
To this day I remember the “green cross code” whenever I cross the road, I pass it on to my kids too.
BBC article here – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-55117704