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Darth Vader’s helmet raises charity funds in May the 4th auction

The Guardian - Tue May 4 16:30

In an auction house far, far away (well, Bristol actually), the enduring power of the force was clear.

A Darth Vader helmet sold for five times the estimate and a signed picture of Alec Guinness in his Obi-Wan Kenobi robes was snapped up for treble what was anticipated.

Someone, somewhere, paid £9,000 for a prototype lightsaber, the weapon of choice of Jedi knights in the Star Wars saga, which the Earthlings at East Bristol Auctions had judged might bring in £80-£120.

Hundreds of items hoarded and collected by David Prowse, the Bristolian who played Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, were sold off in his home city following his death aged 85 last year.

Naturally the sale took place on May the 4th – a nod to the franchise’s iconic line “May the force be with you” – with a percentage of proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Research UK. Prowse died following a short illness having been living with Alzheimer’s disease for around a decade.

A photo of Luke Skywalker signed by Mark Hamill to David Prowse
A photo of Luke Skywalker signed by Mark Hamill to David Prowse. Photograph: PA

It may be no surprise that the hardware – the helmets, the weapons – went for so much. But there was clearly a huge fascination in autographed pictures.

An image of Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, with Prowse went for £15,000. The interest may well have been the inscription (spoiler alert): “For David – You’ll Always Be ‘Dad’ Vader To Me.”

And a colour still from The Empire Strikes Back signed by Prowse and James Earl Jones – who provided Vader’s voice – fetched £4,100.

Prowse as the Green Cross Code Man
Prowse as the Green Cross Code Man. Photograph: Nigel Davies/More Th>n/PA

Vader was not Prowse’s only job. He was known to British children of the 1970s as the Green Cross Code Man, a road safety champion in public information films. His uniform went for £2,600.

The auctioneer Andrew Stowe described his excitement as he rummaged through boxes from Prowse’s home. “Every now and then I’d come across something special and it would send my brain racing,” he said.

“In one box I’d find his Empire Strikes Back script, in another an actual piece of the Millennium Falcon, then a little deeper down I’d find a letter from Peter Cushing.”

The auction house and Alzheimer’s Research UK were delighted. Tim Parry, the director of the charity, said: “The response to the auction has been simply incredible and testament to the iconic role David brought to life in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of bids have been placed from around the world, helping to smash pre-auction estimates.

“We couldn’t be prouder to be associated with the auction and we can’t thank the Prowse family enough for deciding to donate a percentage of proceeds to help our search for breakthrough dementia treatments.”