Donald Harvey Francks (28 February 1932 – 3 April 2016), also known as Iron Buffalo, was a Canadian actor, singer and musician.
Francks in 2014 - photo by Don Dixon
Donald Harvey Francks
February 28, 1932
|Died||April 3, 2016 (aged 84)|
|Other names||Iron Buffalo|
|Occupation||Actor, singer, musician|
Lili Francks (m. 1966)
|Children||5, including Cree Summer and Rainbow Sun and Bentley Francks-Slaughter|
Don Francks was born on February 28, 1932, and shortly after his birth he was adopted. His mother worked at a music store and his father was an electrician. As a child, he performed on Vancouver radio doing imitations of singers. After dropping out of high school at age 15, he worked in several jobs. In 1955 he won a recurring role on the CBC television program Burns Chuckwagon from the Stampede Corral. After guest appearances on television shows during the late 1950s, he received his first lead role in the 1959–60 CBC program R.C.M.P., playing Constable Bill Mitchell.
During the 1960s he had roles on the American television programs Mission: Impossible, Jericho, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and Mannix. His most famous film part was in Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Finian's Rainbow. He acted on Broadway in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and Kelly. In 1969 he rejected an offer to work with Katharine Hepburn in Coco, her only stage musical.
In 1962 Francks led Three, an avant-garde jazz trio with Lenny Breau on guitar and Eon Henstridge on double bass. The band performed regularly in Toronto and New York City and appeared in the National Film Board documentary Toronto Jazz.
In 1963 Franks released No One in This World Is Like Don Francks, his first solo album, 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, with 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 released in 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 in a field on May 4, 1968. Francks 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 twelve 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 the Tibetan independence movement. After quitting alcohol at the age of 21, Francks smoked marijuana, performing a song called "Smoking Reefers". As a spokesman for Other Voices (Canadian TV series) in mid-1960s, he investigated a boy's murder at Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Later in life Don had a son named Bentley Clay Francks-Slaughter who died tragically in a house fire late in 2008.
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. He also voiced both Thomas "House" Conklin & Sergeant Carl Proctor on the 1988 Police Academy animated series.
|1981||Heavy Metal||Grimaldi / Co-Pilot / Barbarian (voice)||segments "Grimaldi", "B-17","Taarna"|
|1983||Rock & Rule||Mok (voice)|
|1978||Star Wars Holiday Special||Boba Fett (voice)||Television film |
|1983||Inspector Gadget||Big M.A.D Agent / M.A.D Agent / Dr. Claw (voice)||65 Episodes|
|1985-1986||Star Wars: Ewoks||Umwak / Dulok Shaman (voice)|
|1985||Star Wars: Droids||Jann Tosh / Kybo Ren / Boba Fett (voice)||13 Episodes|
|1988-1989||Police Academy||Proctor / Thomas "House" Conklin (voice)||64 Episodes|
|1989||The Legend of Zelda||Additional voices||13 Episodes|
|1991||Swamp Thing||Anton Arcane (voice)||5 Episodes|
|1992-1996||X-Men||Sabretooth / Graydon Creed Sr. / Puck / Shaman / Phalanx (Sabretooth) (voice)||17 Episodes|
|1996||Goosebumps||Swamp Hermit||Episode: "The Werewolf of Fever Swamp" Parts 1 & 2|
|1997-2001||La Femme Nikita||Walter||96 Episodes|
|1998||Donkey Kong Country||(voice)|
|1998||Silver Surfer||Kalok (voice)||Episode: "The Origin of the Silver Surfer: Part 1"|
|1998||Sam & Max: Freelance Police||Santa Claus (voice)||Episode: "Christmas Bloody Christmas"|
|2010-2011||The Adventures of Chuck and Friends||Deep (voice)||2 Episodes|
|1996||X-Men vs. Street Fighter||Sabretooth|
|2000||Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes||Uncredited|
|X-Men: Mutant Academy|
|2001||X-Men: Mutant Academy 2|
- Ivy League Killers (1959) .... Andy
- R.C.M.P. (1959–1960, TV Series) .... Constable Bill Mitchell
- Drylanders (1963) .... Russel
- The Forest Rangers (1963, TV Series) .... Sanders, Jack Brass' Friend
- Ben Casey (1965, TV Series) .... Alan Ames
- High Steel (1966) .... Narrator
- The Wild Wild West (1966, TV Series) .... T. Wiggett Jones
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1966, TV Series) .... Artie King
- Jericho (1966 TV series) (1966-1967, TV Series) .... Captain Franklin Sheppard
- Finian's Rainbow (1968) .... Woody Mahoney
- The Merv Griffin Show (1968, TV Series) .... Himself
- The Virginian (1969, TV Series) .... Caleb and Jack Welles
- Mission: Impossible (1968-1969, TV Series) .... Major Alex Denesch / Nicholas Groat
- Mannix (1969, TV Series) .... Greg Martel
- Lancer (1969, TV Series) .... Noah Fletcher
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968–1970, TV Series) .... Mr. Anybody
- McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) .... Buffalo
- Drying Up the Streets (1978) .... Peter Brennan
- The Great Detective (1979, TV Series)
- Fast Company (1979) .... Elder
- Riel (1979, TV Movie) .... Ouilette
- Fish Hawk (1979) .... Deut Boggs
- Summer's Children (1979) .... Albert
- The Phoenix Team (1980, Series) .... David Brook
- My Bloody Valentine (1981) .... Chief Jake Newby
- This Land (1978–1982, TV Series) .... Host
- Inspector Gadget (1983, TV Series) .... Big M.A.D Agent / M.A.D Agent / Dr. Claw (voice)
- Countdown to Looking Glass (1984, TV Movie) .... Don Geller
- The Littlest Hobo (1984, TV Series) .... Reverend Dobson
- Seeing Things (1984-1985, TV Series) .... Guy / Sunshine
- Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors (1985, TV Series) .... Noak (voice)
- Terminal Choice (1985) .... Chauncy Rand
- Danger Bay (1986, TV Series) .... Commentator
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1987, TV Series) .... Sgt. Jim Willis
- The Big Town (1987) .... Carl Hooker
- My Pet Monster (1987, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Madballs (1987, TV Series) .... Commander Wolf Breath (voice)
- Starcom: The U.S. Space Force (1987, TV Series) .... Adm. Franklin Brinkley (Starcom Commander) (voice)
- Street Legal (1987, TV Series) .... Mel
- Oklahoma Smugglers (1987) .... George Taip
- AlfTales (1988, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future (1987-1988, TV Series) .... Lacchi (voice)
- Garbage Pail Kids (1988, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Care Bears Nutcracker Suite (1988) .... The Vizier (voice)
- The Christmas Wife (1988, TV Movie) .... Social Arranger
- The Care Bears (1986-1988, TV Series) .... (voice)
- ALF: The Animated Series (1987-1989, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Police Academy (1988-1989, TV Series) .... Proctor / Thomas "House" Conklin (voice)
- The Legend of Zelda (1989, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Babar (1989, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Beetlejuice (1989) .... Count Mein / Mr. Big (voice)
- Piggsburg Pigs (1990, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Top Cops (1991, TV Series) .... Dakota
- Swamp Thing (1991) .... Anton Arcane (voice)
- Rupert (1991, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Married to It (1991) .... Sol Chamberlain
- Dog City (1992, TV Series) .... the Dog City Residents (voice)
- The Adventures of Tintin (1992, TV Series) .... Captain Francis Haddock (voice)
- Quiet Killer (1992, TV Movie) .... Dr. Martin
- E.N.G. (1992, TV Series) .... Pointer
- The Diviners (1993, TV Movie) .... Royland
- The Busy World of Richard Scarry (1993, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (1993-1994, TV Series) .... Girth / Hobbs
- Paint Cans (1994) .... Maitland Burns
- Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993-1994, TV Series) .... The Hunter / The Exterminator / Red Beard (voice)
- Hello Kitty and Friends (1994, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Side Effects (1994, TV Series) .... Mr. Harrison
- Free Willy (1994, TV Series) .... (voice)
- WildC.A.T.S. (1994, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1994, TV Series) .... Stranger
- Highlander: The Animated Series (1994, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Ultraforce (1995, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Little Bear (1995, TV Series) .... (voice)
- A Vow to Kill (1995, TV Movie) .... Smithford
- Johnny Mnemonic (1995) .... Hooky
- First Degree (1995) .... Lou Matlin
- The Neverending Story (1995, TV Series) .... Gmork (voice)
- Road to Avonlea (1991-1995, TV Series) .... Abe Pike
- Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1996, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Blazing Dragons (1996, Video Game) .... (voice)
- Flash Gordon (1996, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Goosebumps (1996, TV Series) .... Swamp Hermit
- Hostile Advances: The Kerry Ellison Story (1996, TV Movie) .... Marty
- Harriet the Spy (1996) .... Harrison Withers
- Bogus (1996) .... Dr. Surprise
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (1996, TV Movie) .... (voice)
- First Degree (1997) .... Lou Matlin
- Chester Cheetah (1997, TV Series) .... (voice)
- La Femme Nikita (1997–2001, TV Series) .... Walter
- Freaky Stories (1997, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Pippi Longstocking (1997, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Ned's Newt (1997, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Fat Dog Mendoza (1998, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Birdz (1998, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Bad Dog (1998, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Donkey Kong Country (1998, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension (1998, TV Series) .... Sandman
- The Minion (1998) .... Michael Baer
- Summer of the Monkeys (1998) .... Bayliss Hatcher
- Little Men (1998, TV Series) .... Levi Cole
- Traders (1998, TV Series)
- Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend (1998, TV Series) .... Blue-Eyed Wolf / Sailor #2 (voice)
- Mr. Music (1998, TV Movie) .... Zal Adamchyk
- Rescue Heroes (1999, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Avengers: United They Stand (1999, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Relic Hunter (1999, TV Series) .... Jake Whitney
- Seasons of Love (1999, TV Series) .... Reverend Doctor Garshwin
- Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal (2000, TV Series) .... Samuel Thompson
- Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000, Video Game) .... Sabretooth / Victor Creed
- The Famous Jett Jackson (2000, TV Series) .... Phil Phelps
- Medabots (2001, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Earth: Final Conflict (2001, TV Series) .... Kyle Madrid
- The Zack Files (2001, TV Series) .... Raoul
- A Killing Spring (2002, TV Movie) .... Lou Massey
- Tracker (2002, TV Series) .... Wahota Keene
- My Name Is Tanino (2002) .... Chinawsky 
- Eckhart (2002, TV Series) .... Boss Mouse (voice)
- Call of the Wild (2002)
- Cyberchase (2002, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Beyblade (2002, TV Series) .... (voice)
- Knights of the Zodiac (2003, TV Series) .... (voice)
- My Dad the Rock Star (2003, TV Series) .... Skunk (voice)
- Atomic Betty (2004, Episodes: "No-L9", "Like Father, Like Scum/Planet Stinxx") .... Max Sr. (voice)
- This Is Wonderland (2004-2005, TV Series) .... Stan Puck
- Lie with Me (2005) .... Joshua
- The Very Good Adventures of Yam Roll in Happy Kingdom (2006, TV Series) .... Futukayoi (voice)
- Puppets Who Kill (2004-2006, TV Series) .... Blind Willy / The Evil Head
- Sons of Butcher (2006, TV Series) .... Barney G.
- I'm Not There (2007) .... Gentleman Hobo (Hobo Joe) on the train
- The Listener (2009, TV Series) ... Wally
- Hemlock Grove (2013, TV Series) .... Nicolae Rumancek
- He Never Died (2015) .... Goatee Man
- Gangland Undercover (2015, TV Series) .... Lizard
- The Second Time Around (2016) .... Murray (final film role)
|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|
- "Toronto Jazz". National Film Board. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- "BC Radio History". bcradiohistory.com. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Gardner, David. "Don Francks". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Mackay, Susan (16 May 2018). "Singer, actor Don Francks was a fountain of endless creativity". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- "Interview with Gene Glazer". www.cynbythesea.com. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Loriggio, Paola (23 Dec 2009). "Oakville boy, 5, dies in fire". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
- Bearden, Jim; Linda Jean Butler (August 1980). "Don Francks Full Circle". Cinema Canada. p. 30. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
- Forbes-Roberts, Ron (2006). One Long Tune: The Life and Music of Lenny Breau. 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.
- "Cartoon Characters, Cast and Crew for The Star Wars Holiday Special, …". archive.is. 26 May 2018. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Official website archived
- Encyclopedia of Music in Canada
- Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Don Francks at the Internet Broadway Database
- Don Francks on IMDb
- Bentley Clay Francks-Slaughter Obituary published in the Toronto Star Jan 2009
- Community mourns loss of boy, 5, killed in fire