Francks in 1966
Donald Harvey Francks|
February 28, 1932
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
April 3, 2016 (aged 84)|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Other names||Iron Buffalo|
|Occupation||Actor, singer, jazz musician|
Lili Francks (m. 1966)
|Children||4, including Cree Summer and Rainbow Sun|
Donald Harvey Francks (28 February 1932 – 3 April 2016), also known as Iron Buffalo, was a Canadian actor and musician.
Don Francks was born on February 28, 1932 and shortly after his birth was adopted. Francks's mother worked at a music store and his father was an electrician. As a child, Francks performed on Vancouver radio doing imitations of singers. After dropping out of high school at age 15, Francks worked several jobs. In 1955 he received his major break, winning a regular part on the CBC Television programme Burns Chuckwagon from the Stampede Corral. After guest appearances on several other television shows throughout the late 1950s, Francks received his first lead part in the 1959-60 CBC programme R.C.M.P., playing Constable Bill Mitchell.
Franck's television career took off in the 1960s as he began to appear on numerous American programmes. These included Mission: Impossible, Jericho, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and Mannix. His most famous film appearance was in Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Finian's Rainbow, in which he played Woody Mahoney. Francks's acting career also included many Broadway appearances, including in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and the flop Kelly. In 1969 he turned down an offer to appear alongside Katharine Hepburn in Coco, her only stage musical.
In addition to his acting career, he performed regularly as a jazz vocalist. In 1962 he fronted the avant-garde jazz trio "Three" (with Lenny Breau on guitar and Eon Henstridge on acoustic bass), which performed regularly in Toronto and New York City. This trio is featured prominently in the 1962 National Film Board documentary Toronto Jazz. In 1963 Franks released his first solo album, No One in This World Is Like Don Francks, recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City. The title of the album derived from a remark made by Jackie Gleason when the trio performed on the April 23, 1963 The Jackie Gleason Show playing "Bye Bye Blackbird". Two years later he recorded his second album, Lost... and Alone, featuring orchestral arrangements by Patrick Williams. He recorded his final album, 21st Century Francks, in 2002 at the Top o' the Senator in Toronto. The album was not released until 2014.
In 1962 Francks married Nancy Sue Johnson. They had a son, Trane, and daughter before divorcing in 1967. While filming Finian's Rainbow Francks met Lili Clark, a dancer from San Francisco. After persuading her to travel with him to the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan, the two married there in a field on May 4, 1968. Franks and Clark had a daughter, Cree Summer (born 1969), and a son, Rainbow Sun (born 1979). During the 1970s Francks and Clark lived at Red Pheasant. During this time the Cree chief King Bird Baptiste gave Francks the name Iron Buffalo, meaning "someone who is strong, who knows where to go, and who provides well for his family".
An avid motorcycle rider, he had a collection of 12 antique cars, mostly Model-T Ford racing cars from 1912 to 1927. He was a poet, native nations champion, author and peace activist. He supported Greenpeace and Tibet. Having quit drinking alcohol at the age of 21, Francks was "a fan of" marijuana, and used to perform a song called "Smoking Reefers".
Don Francks died in Toronto on April 3, 2016 of lung cancer.
Francks composed songs and played trombone, drums, and flute. He performed in jazz clubs such as George's Spaghetti House in Toronto and the Village Vanguard in New York City, where he recorded the album Jackie Gleason Says No One in This World Is Like Don Francks (Kapp, 1963). In New York City he recorded Lost...and Alone (Kapp, 1965).
In August 1962 his avant-garde jazz group Three debuted unrehearsed at the Purple Onion coffeehouse in Toronto, Canada. Francks, Lenny Breau, and Eon Henstridge were joined on stage by tap dancer Joey Hollingsworth. The evening was recorded live by Breau's manager, George B. Sukornyk, but wasn't released until 2004 under the name Live at the Purple Onion (Art of Life, 2004). A National Film Board documentary called Toronto Jazz included rehearsals and performances by Three and two other groups. Francks and Breau briefly reprised Three in early 1968 in Toronto with bassist Dave Young in place of Eon Henstridge who had died the year before. In 1999, Francks appeared in the documentary The Genius of Lenny Breau.
Francks' acting career began with CBC Television as a regular on Burns Chuckwagon from the Stampede Corral (1955–55) and Riding High (1955), then in the drama The Fast Ones (1959). In 1957 he had a part in the American series The Adventures of Tugboat Annie (actually filmed in Toronto Canada), then back to Canada in 1958 for Cannonball and Long Shot (1959). In 1959–60 he starred in the CBC-TV series R.C.M.P., playing Constable Bill Mitchell. In 1968 he co-starred with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark in the film version of Finian's Rainbow.
This Land (1970–86) was a CBC-TV documentary series on Canadian nature, wildlife, natural resources, and life in remote communities. Francks was the narrator. He portrayed writer Grey Owl, returning fifty years after his death to be disturbed by the ecological deterioration. (Episode "Land of Shadows" first aired 1983-08-02.)
From 1997 to 2001, he played "Walter" in La Femme Nikita (TV series). Early television credits include: Mission: Impossible, Wild Wild West, and several other episodic television appearances. In the 2015 six-part series Gangland Undercover on the History Channel, he played "Lizard". His film work includes The Big Town, My Bloody Valentine and Johnny Mnemonic.
On February 16, 1964, he appeared on Broadway in the title role of the musical Kelly, as a daredevil planning to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. The show was the first on Broadway in a generation to close on opening night.
According to differing sources, either Francks or Gabriel Dell was the uncredited actor providing the voice of Boba Fett, a Mandalorian bounty hunter, in the Star Wars Holiday Special. Francks, credited, voiced the role of Boba Fett in an episode of Star Wars: Droids. He voiced several characters in Inspector Gadget, along with his daughter, Cree Summer, who voiced Penny during the first season of the show. He provided the voice for Mok Swagger in the 1983 Canadian animated film Rock and Rule, and the voice of Sabretooth on X-Men.
- Gangland Undercover (2015) ... as Lizard
- Hemlock Grove (2013) ... as Nicolae Rumancek
- The Listener (2009) ... as Wally
- I'm Not There (2007) ... as Gentleman Hobo (Hobo Joe) on the train
- Sons of Butcher (2006) ... as Barney G.
- The Very Good Adventures of Yam Roll in Happy Kingdom (2006) (voice) ... as Futukayoi
- Lie with Me (2005) ... as Joshua
- Puppets Who Kill ("The Twilight Place") (2004) ... as The Evil Head ... ("Bill & the Berkowitz's") (2006) ... Blind Willy
- This Is Wonderland ("Episode 1.13") (2004) ... as Stan Puck
- Atomic Betty ("No-L9", "Like Father, Like Scum/Planet Stinxx") (2004) (voice) ... as Max Sr.
- My Dad the Rock Star (2003) (voice) ... as Skunk
- Knights of the Zodiac (2003) ... Additional Voices
- Beyblade (2002) ... Additional Voices
- Cyberchase (2002) ... Additional Voices
- Tracker ("Native Son") (2002) ... as Wahota Keene
- A Killing Spring (2002) ... as Lou Massey
- My Name Is Tanino (2002) ... as Chinawsky 
- X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (2001) (voice) ... as Sabretooth/Victor Creed
- The Zack Files ("Groovin'") (2001)
- Medabots (2001) ... Guest Star
- Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000) (voice) ... as Sabretooth/Victor Creed
- X-Men: Mutant Academy (2000) (voice) ... as Sabretooth/Victor Creed
- Earth: Final Conflict ("Trapped by Time") (2001) ... as Kyle Madrid
- Eckhart (2000) (voice) ... as Boss Mouse
- The Famous Jett Jackson ("Backstage Pass") (2000) ... as Phil Phelps
- Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal ("Wendigo") (2000) ... as Samuel Thompson
- Relic Hunter ("Flag Day") (1999) ... as Jake Whitney
- Avengers: United They Stand (1999) ... Additional Voices
- Rescue Heroes (1999) ... Additional Voices
- Seasons of Love (1999) ... as Reverend Doctor Garshwin
- Traders ("Little Monsters") (1998)
- Summer of the Monkeys (1998) ... as Bayliss Hatcher
- Fat Dog Mendoza (1998) ... Additional Voices
- Silver Surfer (1998) (voice) ... as Kalok
- Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend ("Jason and the Argonauts", "Ulysses and Circe") (1998) (voice) ... as Blue-Eyed Wolf, 2nd Sailor
- Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension ("Nightmare on Eerie Street") (1998) ... Sandman
- Birdz (1998) ... Additional Voices
- Bad Dog (1998) ... Additional Voices
- Donkey Kong Country (1998) ... Additional Voices
- Mr. Music (1998) ... as Zal Adamchyk
- Little Men ("Thanksgiving") (1998) ... as Levi Cole
- The Minion (1998) ... as Michael Baer
- Sam & Max: Freelance Police ("Christmas Bloody Christmas") (1998) (voice) ... Santa Claus
- Ned's Newt (1997) ... Additional Voices
- Pippi Longstocking (1997) ... Additional Voices
- Freaky Stories (1997) ... Additional Voices
- La Femme Nikita (1997–2001) ... as Walter
- Chester Cheetah (1997) ... Voice
- X-Men vs. Street Fighter (1996) (voice) ... as Sabretooth/Victor Creed
- First Degree (1996) ... as Lou Matlin
- Bogus (1996) ... as Dr. Surprise
- Harriet the Spy (1996) ... as Harrison Withers
- Hostile Advances: The Kerry Ellison Story (1996) ... as Marty
- Flash Gordon (1996) ... Additional Voices
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (1996) ... Voice
- Blazing Dragons (1996) ... Guest Star
- Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1996) ... Additional Voices
- Goosebumps ("The Werewolf of Fever Swamp" Parts 1 and 2) (1996) ... as Swamp Hermit
- First Degree (1996) ... as Lou Matlin
- The Neverending Story (1995) (voice) ... as Gmork
- Johnny Mnemonic (1995) ... as Hooky
- Road to Avonlea ("The Return of Gus Pike") (1995) ... as Abe Pike
- A Vow to Kill (1995) ... as Smithford
- Little Bear (1995) ... as Additional Voices
- Ultraforce (1995) ... Additional Voices
- Highlander: The Animated Series (1994) ... Guest Star
- Kung Fu: The Legend Continues ("Enter the Tiger") (1994) ... as Stranger
- WildC.A.T.S. (1994) ... Guest Star
- Free Willy (1994) ... Guest Star
- Side Effects ("The Great Chendini") (1994) ... as Mr. Harrison
- Hello Kitty and Friends (1994) ... Additional Voices
- Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993) ("Ghost Ship") (voice) ... as Red Beard
- Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (1993) (voice) ... as Hobb
- The Busy World of Richard Scarry (1993) ... Additional Voices
- The Diviners (1993) ... as Royland
- E.N.G. ("The Sleep of Reason") (1992) ... as Pointer
- Quiet Killer (1992) ... as Dr. Martin
- The Adventures of Tintin (1992) (voice) ... as Captain Francis Haddock
- Dog City (1992) (voice) ... as the Dog City Residents
- X-Men (1992–97) (voice) ... as Sabretooth/Graydon Creed Sr., Puck, Shaman, Phalanx (Sabretooth)
- Married to It (1991) ... as Sol Chamberlain
- Rupert (1991) ... Additional Voices
- Swamp Thing (1991) (voice) ... as Anton Arcane
- Top Cops (1990) ... Announcer
- Piggsburg Pigs (1990) ... Additional Voices
- Beetlejuice (1989) (voice) ... as Count Mein, Mr. Big
- Babar (1989) ... Additional Voices
- The Legend of Zelda (1989) ... Additional Voices
- Police Academy (1988) (voice) ... as Proctor, Thomas "House" Conklin
- The Christmas Wife (1988) ... as Social Arranger
- Care Bears Nutcracker Suite (1988) (voice) ... as Vizier
- AlfTales (1988) ... Additional Voices
- ALF: The Animated Series (1987) ... Additional Voices
- My Pet Monster (1987) ... Additional Voices
- Madballs (1987) (voice) ... as Commander Wolf Breath
- Garbage Pail Kids (1987) ... Additional Voices
- Starcom: The U.S. Space Force (1987) (voice) ... Adm. Franklin Brinkley (Starcom Commander)
- Street Legal ("I'll Be Home for Christmas") (1987) ... as Mel
- Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future (1987) (voice) ... as Lacchi
- The Big Town (1987) ... as Carl Hooker
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents ("The Mole") (1987) ... as Sgt. Jim Willis
- Danger Bay (1986) ... as Commentator
- The Care Bears (1986) ... Additional Voices
- Seeing Things ("I'm Looking Through You") (1984) ... as Sunshine, ("Blind Alley") (1985) ... as Gary
- Star Wars: Ewoks (1985–86) (voice) ... as Umwak, Dulok Shaman
- Star Wars: Droids (1985) (voice) ... as Jann Tosh
- Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors (1985) (voice) ... as Noak
- The Littlest Hobo ("The Good Shepherd") (1984) ... as Reverend Dobson
- Countdown to Looking Glass (1984) ... as Don Geller
- Inspector Gadget (1983) .... Additional Voices
- Rock & Rule (1983) (voice) ... as Mok
- Heavy Metal (1981) (voice) ... as Grimaldi, Co-Pilot, Barbarian
- My Bloody Valentine (1981) ... as Chief Jake Newby
- The Phoenix Team (1980) ... as David Brook
- Riel (1979) ... as Ouilette
- The Great Detective ("The Black Curse") (1979) ... Guest Star
- Fast Company (1979) ... as Elder
- Fish Hawk (1979) ... as Deut Boggs
- McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) ... as Buffalo
- Mannix ("Memory: Zero") (1969)
- Lancer ("Little Darling of the Sierras") (1969) ... as Noah Fletcher
- Mission: Impossible ("A Game of Chess") (1968) ... as Nicholas Groat, ("The Numbers Game") (1969) ... as Major Alex Denesch
- The Virginian ("The Land Dreamer") (1969) ... as Caleb and Jack Welles
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968–70) ... as Mr. Anybody
- Finian's Rainbow (1968) ... as Woody Mahoney
- Jericho (1966 TV series) ... as Captain Franklin Shepphard (16 episodes)
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("The Round Table Affair") (1966)... as Artie King
- The Wild Wild West ("The Night of the Grand Emir") (1966) ... as T. Wigget Jones
- High Steel 1966 (narrator)
- Ben Casey ("You Wanna Know What Really Goes on in a Hospital?"), ("Why Did the Day Go Backwards?") (1965)
- The Forest Rangers ("The Game Reserve") (1963) ... as Sanders, Jack Brass' Friend
- This Land (1978–1982) ... as Host
- The Merv Griffin Show (February 15, 1968)
- R.C.M.P. (1959–60) ... as Constable Bill Mitchell
- ACTRA Award for Best Dramatic Performance, Drying Up the Streets and The Phoenix Team, 1980 and 1981
|1963||Jackie Gleason says... "No one in this world is like Don Francks"||Kapp|
|1965||Lost... and Alone||Kapp|
|1988||Mesa: The Four Directions||Books for Ears|
|1991||Bob's Favorite Street Songs ("Put Down the Duckie" only)||A&M|
|2000||The Insanity of One Man||Books for Ears|
|2004||At the Purple Onion||Art of Life|
|2014||21st Century Francks||Iron Buffalo Productions|
- Heyn, Christopher. "A Conversation with Don Francks". Inside Section One: Creating and Producing TV's La Femme Nikita. Introduction by Peta Wilson. Los Angeles: Persistence of Vision Press, 2006. p. 100–105; ISBN 0-9787625-0-9.
- "Toronto Jazz".
- "BC Radio History Bio". Retrieved May 23, 2013.
- "Canadian Encyclopedia entry". Retrieved May 23, 2013.
- "The Globe and Mail entry". Retrieved March 19, 2017.
- ""Skunk" voice in Simmons' "My Dad the Rock Star"". Retrieved May 28, 2013.
- Bearden, Jim; Linda Jean Butler (August 1980). "Don Francks Full Circle". Cinema Canada: 30. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
- Forbes-Roberts, Ron (2006). One Long Tune: The Life and Music of Lenny Breau (Paperback). University of North Texas. p. 124. ISBN 9781574412307.
- "RCMP Constable Bill Mitchell". Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- "This Land, CBC TV series 1070-1986". Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
- Britt, Ryan (November 17, 2016). "38 Years Ago Today, Boba Fett Was Spotted for the First Time". Inverse. Archived from the original on May 26, 2018. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
- Star Wars Holiday Special at The Big Cartoon DataBase Archived from the original on May 26, 2018.