STOP LOOK LISTEN
The Magazine's Public Information Film festival
Every day in February the Magazine is featuring a classic public information film from the past 60 years, concluding with a vote to find the nation's favourite.
In terms of recognisability, the Green Cross Man is hard to beat.
As we reported on Monday, the Green Cross Code had been in existence from 1971, but it was proving difficult to get the message across to children - even in spite of Jon Pertwee exhorting children to "Splink" before they crossed the road.
So officials announced just before the start of the new school year in 1976 that they were spending a (then) massive £880,000 on bringing the Green Cross Code "to life".
STOP LOOK LISTEN
Stop Look Listen is the Magazine's festival of Public Information Films, with the National Archives and the COI
They turned to Dave Prowse, a 6ft 7in former bodybuilder from Bristol, who at the time was filming Star Wars in the role of Darth Vader. What they wanted was a superhero character. So Dave turned up for auditions, wearing "white cricket trousers, a black sweater, on top of which I was wearing a white vest, and white shoes".
"Somebody," he says, "came and slapped a large green plastic cross on my chest and I then spent the day having photos taken of me with various combinations of kids, walking across the road, standing at the kerbside, picking the kids up in my arms and obviously lots of pics with cars, motor cycles, bikes and lorries." He got the job, and continued to work with road safety for 14 years.
Prowse famously had his West Country accent dubbed out of Star Wars in favour of James Earl Jones (the voice of "This is CNN"). And there is suspiciously little hint of brogue in this portrayal of Green Cross Man.
But now aged 70, Prowse proudly reflects on visiting more than 700 cities around the world, speaking to half a million school children about being careful crossing the road. He claims a part in saving a quarter of a million children's lives. Being the Green Cross Man, he says, was "the best job I ever had".
For someone who also got to dress up in a fantastic costume and horse around with Alec Guinness, that is some statement. And so Stop Look Listen salutes him.
(The scene: A tall modern building, appearing to be in a 1950s new town, with flashing green neon cross on top, and a sign saying Green Cross Central. Cut to the inside, where Green Cross man is sitting at a hi-tech desk)
GREEN CROSS MAN: Hi there!
(Turns to flashing screen, which shows pair of children crossing the road)
GCM: Uh oh. This looks dangerous. Will they see that car?
(Car slams on brakes and hoots horn)
GCM, to camera: Think I'd better have a word with those two.
(Presses button on watch, labelled "MATERIALISER". Appears next to children)
GCM: That wasn't very clever, was it? If you'd been looking and listening all the way across, that wouldn't have happened.
(Children then cross the road properly)
GCM, back at office: That's better. Remember, always use the Green Cross Code, because I won't be there when you cross the road.
In other news...
Our hunt for Reginald Molehusband continues. One reader writes to suggest that he was played by Talfryn Thomas, pictured right, a character actor who played Private Cheeseman in Dad's Army. However, a normally very reliable source is "98% certain" that it was not Molehusband.
Is this the face of Molehusband?
Two other potential leads on copies of the film have turned to naught. And, please note, we are aware of the audio only version of the film on TV Cream, as our original article mentions.
One reflection on SPLINK! comes from Neil Selkirk, Scotland, who, inspired by the unusual acronym, points to a public awareness campaign being run in Australia: BATBYGOBSTOPL. See internet links (above, right) if you want to know what it stands for.
Many other readers pointed out that the children in the Splink film were Todd Carty and Dexter Fletcher.
You can see the other films in this series by using the drop-down menu on the right hand side of the page. Stop Look Listen is compiled by Giles Wilson.
Add your comments on this story, using the form below.
'But I wont be there when you cross the road' still rings in my head today, which 30 years later is a testament to their awareness campaign!
Julia Jones, Leicester England
One of my earliest memories is meeting the green cross code man. It was at some sort of fete I think and I was scared half to death!
I'll remember to stop, look and listen til the day I die!
Perhaps they should bring these road safety films back for children instead of always showing motorists as the bad guys knocking over children?
In my view children are just not as safety aware as they used to be - it's not always the motorists fault - maybe it's because these days they know if they survive a knock they can sue!
A great series - my personal favourite road safety PIF is the one with Alvin Stardust and his famous glove - would probably look a little dodgy today!!
Strikes me we could do with more Public Information films again as common sense seems to have gone out the window.
Some suggested modern topics:
Driving whilst texting.
Surviving reality shows
Shopping on the internet
Glyn Bigmore, Maldon, Essex
Very definately not the face of Mr Molehusband, my favouite instructional video. My friends and I still comment on our parking when we do it the Molehusband way perfectly every time
Janet Cowie, Barnstaple
Dave Prouse visited my primary school in the North of Scotland sometime in either the late 70's or early 80's. There was great excitement amongst me and my friends that Dath Vader was visiting. We certainly weren't dissapointed by The Green Cross Code man. A day that sticks out in my early memory.
None of us ever got run over by cars to my knowledge either! Must of worked!
Greg Rowe, Manchester
The earnest car-parking acolyte Reginald Molehusband was played by Richard O'Sullivan, I'm pretty sure.
Rob Ainsley, London, UK
I've just discovered this celebration of public information films. Brings back a lot of memories. I've often wondered why we don't seem to have them any more. Does society now know how to behave? I doubt it. I hope you will be featuring some of my favourites "Amber Gambler", "Dip, Don't Dazzle" and "Space Invaders". All three are related to driving standards and from my experience are ignored more now than they were in the seventies.
The Green Cross Code Man was a stroke of genius.
Government statistics show that most of child fatalities on the roads are boys. A modern, effective road safety campaign must appeal to them. Boys love secret underground bases, technology and superheroes. I was a child of the seventies and I learnt to cross the road safely from The Green Cross Code Man. He was Darth Vader. He was cool. We'll listen to him.
So ditch the hedgehogs - The Green Cross Code Man is exactly what's needed. If there's a chance it will save a child's life - what's the excuse?
Ayd, Oxford, UK
Other road safety PIF slogans that I remember include "Don't be an amber gambler", Think once, think twice, think bike" and "Only a fool breaks the 2-second rule". I also think there were more Jimmy Saville PIFs. Shall we be seeing these?
John McDonald, Newtownards, Northern Ireland
Don't forget before the Green Cross Man was Tufty the squirrel and the Tufty club, When I was really young he was my first recollection of road safety films and learning, Green cross man had greater child age appeal later on.
Lindsay Clark, Daventry
I would like to point out that "SPLINK" and "BATBYGOBSTOPL" are not true acronyms.
In the English language, an acronym is defined as "an (English) word formed from the initial letters of a multi-word name".
In both these cases, the word formed is NOT an English word - it is merely an abbreviation (thereby creating the made up word), consisting of the initial letters of the words or phrase. These are sometimes called "initialisms" or "contractions" - (obviously contractions in the linguistic sense!)
The Green Cross Code has now been abandoned in favor of slowing down traffic. You must now drive slow enough that if someone steps out right in front of you then you should be able to stop without hitting them. If you hit them from 20mph then something needs to be done and speeds reduced.
Let's not bother to teach people to look first (from childhood) because they can now just walk straight out into the road and if they get hit then it's the drivers fault for going too fast no matter what speed that maybe.
Rob Lyttelton, Manchester
Makes me laugh when you look at these old films and the streets are virtually clear of cars. I remember that you used to have to find a space away from parked cars to cross - fat chance of that these days.
Mark Jones, Medway
That's Talfryn Thomas alright - I recognise him from Survivors and a couple of Jon SPLINK Pertwee's Doctor Whos!
Dave Forbes, Widnes
I remember so many of the Public Information Films - they were classics! Am I the only one who remembers the "Get Yourself Seen" song from the 70s encouraging safer bicycle riders? I can still sing it now!
Mandi, Cardiff, Wales
I have a feeling that Reginald Molehusband might have been played by Edwin Apps. He was a character actor of the 50s-70s. I recall him with particular fondness from "Whacko!" starring Jimmy Edwards. Edwin Apps played Mr Halliforth.
Loved the story, I have fond memories of Mr Green Cross Code Man. A real super hero if ever there were one, a super hero that actually in reality HAS saved peoples lives. Thank you all, god bless
Tim King, London, England
Green Cross Code Man.
The daddy of all public information films.
David Berry, Wirral, Merseyside
I remember meeting the Green cross code man at a school function. To us kids, he was massive. The kids in my class sat listening to him and he had us captivated. I wonder what my children would think of him now!
Tim Lloyd, London
The Green Cross Code Man came to our primary school in Swanage when I was 5 or 6.
I remember that my older brother was jealous of us seeing Darth Vader, but what impressed me most at the time was that he could get his pecs to "dance"...
Mel Read, Poole, Dorset
Spent the day with Dave Prowse yesterday at a signing event, I wasn't surprised to find as many people spoke to him about the Green Cross Code as Star Wars. Many who remembered the time he toured around the country promoting the code. It is still one of the information programmes that I remember best.
I remember Reginald Molehusband as a rather tall and thin chap - clearly a bit gormless. He had a look of John Cleese.
chris hill, amersham, UK
Heard a theory that the "catchphrase" of the campaign had to be changed to "I won't be there..." because children were reported to be deliberately running into roads in order to "summon him up". Is this true? I would also comment that the R2D2 style robot sidekick that came along added nothing to the campaign as far as I was concerned.
Steve Pullen, Bognor Regis
Wasn't Reginald Molehusband played by Michael Bates? He was in the original couple of series of "It Ain't Half Hot Mum" and was in the original line up of "Last of the Summer Wine" before his death.
I had my photo taken with all he kids in my class, with Dave Prowse, and published in a Carlisle newspaper back in around 1983, showing how we'd all been educated on how to cross the road safely. One week later one of the kids was knocked down, that's ironic. (she was fine though)
Graeme Green, Newcastle
Dave Prowse visited our school about 20 years ago - he was Darth Vader and could lift two small children above his head with one hand (a real life demo!) - if he told you to cross the road properly then you did!
Mike Tombs, Stockport, UK
When i was younger i got to meet the Green Cross Man when he was doing his tours of primary schools. I had my photo in the local paper with him, which made me the coolest kid in school. Whoever came up with the idea of the GCM was a genius, it was probably the most effective way of carrying the message to kids at the time. To have a real life super hero in your school, it didn't matter what he was going to talk about, everybody would take notice.
Rich Ruane, Des Moines, USA
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