Don Francks

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Don Francks
Don Francks 1966.JPG
Francks in 1966.
Born Donald Harvey Francks
(1932-02-28)February 28, 1932
Burnaby, British Columbia
Died April 3, 2016(2016-04-03) (aged 84)
Toronto, Ontario
Cause of death Lung cancer
Other names Iron Buffalo
Occupation Actor, singer, jazz musician
Years active 1954–2016
Spouse(s) Lili Francks
(1966-2016; his death)
Children 4 (including Cree Summer and Rainbow Sun Francks)

Donald Harvey "Don" Francks (February 28, 1932 – April 3, 2016), also known as Iron Buffalo, was a Canadian actor, singer, and jazz musician.

Personal life and work[edit]

Francks was born and raised in Burnaby, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver.[1]

He once attributed his voice talent and career to free elocution lessons by Muriel Davis from age eight.[2] He performed in vaudeville, worked as a foundryman and was involved in summer stock before moving to Toronto. During his time in Hollywood he lived in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles.

An avid motorcycle rider, he had a collection of 12 antique cars, mostly Model-T Ford racing cars from 1912-27.[3] He was a poet, native nations champion, author and peace activist. He supported Greenpeace[1] 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."[4]

As a spokesman for Other Voices (Canadian TV series) in mid-1960s, he investigated a boy's murder at Saskatchewan Red Pheasant First Nation.[2] He married and moved there with his second wife, Lili Francks, named there as Red Eagle.[2] He was adopted as a Cree, and named Iron Buffalo[1] "strong like iron. Like the buffalo who knows where to go, is a good provider and good for his family".[2] Since 1979, he lived in Toronto with wife Lili and their son Rainbow Sun. His daughter, actress Cree Summer, resides and works in Hollywood. He also had two children by his first marriage.


Francks composed songs, and played the trombone, drums, and flute. He performed in many jazz clubs including George's Spaghetti House in Toronto, and the Village Vanguard in New York City, there taping the LP quoting Jackie Gleason for the title Jackie Gleason Says No One in This World Is Like Don Francks,[5] (Kapp KRS-4501), in 1963. In New York, he recorded "Lost... and Alone" (1965, Kapp KS-3417).[3]

In August 1962, the Don Francks Trio with Lenny Breau debuted at Toronto's Purple Onion. In 2004, Art of Life Records released a four decades-old recording as Live at the Purple Onion. A National Film Board documentary called Toronto Jazz '62 includes rehearsals and performances of two other groups.[6]

In 2010, he performed on CJRT-FM and recorded a podcast for the station called Jazz Genesis. In January 2013 he completed mixing a double live CD to be released in the fall of 2013. He performed in Toronto jazz clubs seasonally, including an annual stint for The TD Toronto Jazz Festival.[citation needed]


Francks's 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.[7] In 1968 he co-starred with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark in the film version of Finian's Rainbow.[1]

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.)[8]

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.[2]

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.[1]


Francks played Archie Goodwin alongside Mavor Moore as Nero Wolfe for Canadian radio. He provided the voice of "Skunk" in Gene Simmons' animated television show, My Dad the Rock Star.[2]

Francks was the first actor to voice the role of Boba Fett, a Mandalorian bounty hunter in Star Wars Holiday Special and reprised the role 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.[2]


Francks died on April 3, 2016 from lung cancer, at the age of 84. He is survived by his wife and 4 children.[9]

Selected Filmography[edit]


  • 1980 and 1981 - Don Francks won ACTRA Awards for Best Dramatic Performance for his roles in Drying Up The Streets and The Phoenix Team.[5]

Selected discography[edit]

  • At the Purple Onion, with Lenny Breau and Eon Henstridge, 2004, Art of Life Records. Recorded live at the coffeehouse Purple Onion in Toronto in August 1962.
  • No One in This World Is like Don Francks, LP, 1963, Kapp Records. Don Francks, Lenny Breau and Eon Henstridge formed the trio Three.
  • Lost... and Alone, LP, 1964, Kapp Records.
  • "Josephine, the Short Necked Giraffe" Voice of "Jack Giraffe".(1968)
  • "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me" and "One of Those Songs" - A&M Records 45 single #802, 1966


  • 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. pp. 100-05; ISBN 0-9787625-0-9.
    In-depth conversation with Don Francks about his role as Walter on La Femme Nikita, along with numerous stories from his lengthy acting and musical career.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Canadian Encyclopedia entry". Retrieved May 23, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h ""Skunk" voice in Simmons' "My Dad the Rock Star"". Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "BC Radio History Bio". Retrieved May 23, 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Globe and Mail entry". Retrieved March 19, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Bearden, Jim; Linda Jean Butler (August 1980). "Don Francks Full Circle". Cinema Canada: 30. Retrieved May 23, 2013. 
  6. ^ Forbes-Roberts, Ron (December 19, 2006). One Long Tune: The Life and Music of Lenny Breau (Paperback). University of North Texas. p. 83. ISBN 9781574412307. Retrieved May 23, 2013. Live at the Purple Onion 
  7. ^ "RCMP Constable Bill Mitchell". Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "This Land, CBC TV series 1070-1986". Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2013. 
  9. ^ Notice of death of Don Franks,; accessed April 9, 2016.

External links[edit]