David Prowse, the man behind the Darth Vader suit, has died. James Maliszewski has a nice write up remembering the man who put the legs under one of filmdom's most memorable characters. It could be argued that Darth Vader is certainly one of the most iconic villains of the movie industry.
Though the voice would be James Earl Jones all the way, it was Prowse who had to put the movements and the physical presence into each scene. Of course he delivered the lines that were later overdubbed by Jones. So he was acting as the movie was filmed. He was unaware, however, that Lucas would eventually choose to overdub his voice (something that happens with amazing frequency in Hollywood). By Lucas's own admission, he wanted a darker, more menacing voice than Prowse could deliver.
That little quip has cost Lucas over the years as we have morphed into our lunacy race based anti-Western culture, where young post-moderns are sure Lucas meant dark as black, as African American, as in all blacks are evil. Almost every interview about the making of the originals in recent years has had Lucas apologizing and trying to qualify that statement. Such is the lunacy of 21st Century living.
But back then, we knew what he meant. We also knew that Vader's all black outfit was not a nod to Nazis and Jim Crow attitudes. Black is often seen in a dark and sinister way across the cultural spectrum. That's because black is night, the darkness, the grave - it's the universal fear we have when the sun goes down. Let's face it, if your car breaks down on a lone country road at high noon, that's bothersome and even a bit worrisome. But if your car breaks down on the same road at midnight, you have an entire lair of fear added to the mix.
|Ford next to Prowse in a publicity photo
Thankfully, Lucas made this movie before the plague of secular leftism reduced everything to stupid and unreal bilge. Vader steps through the portal into a smoke filled corridor, a large gong sounds in the soundtrack, and nobody has to be told he's a villain. Not because black means evil. But because black means night, dark, foreboding, and hence is the preferred vestment of the dark side.
Behind that, however, was Prowse. The only name I associated with the character of Darth Vader for many years. Whoever David Prowse was, he was Darth Vader to my child's mind. The trickery and movie sleight of hand that put together such a powerful character was beyond my reckoning. For example, though Prowse stood an imposing 6'6", it was only slightly taller than Harrison Ford, who comes in over 6'1" give or take. Hence, you never see Han Solo and Vader standing in the same shot. Instead you have Prowse against such diminutive actors as Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Peter Cushing, who make Prowse/Vader seem all the larger and more imposing.
But as Maliszewski points out, with all of these little tricks, it was Prowse who did a fine job bringing to life a character that could have fallen flat and been a laughing stock. Even detractors of the Star Wars saga seldom have much bad to say about the character of Vader. And that is a testimony to the silent actor behind the mask as much as anything else that went into the making.
Thank you for the memories Mr. Prowse, and may you find peace in the hereafter, held in the hands of a loving and merciful God.