Don at a Greenpeace Love-In circa 1971
Don Francks - Iron Buffalo all-nights CKVN/CFUN Vancouver 1971-73;
stage/TV/screen actor; writer of documentaries and public affairs specials;
ACTRA Award for Best Dramatic Performance 1980-81. (Feb 28/32)
Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Don Francks grew up slowly in an
abundance of nature, playing marbles, soccer, lacrosse and rugby. He learned at
a young age the importance of working hard and meeting people as he did a
little vaudeville, became a foundryman, did some
summer stock, then moved to Toronto to continue his experiments.
Don's stage career began with the play The Willow Pattern Plate at age 11, which convinced him to
pursue acting professionally. He appeared on and off Broadway helping him gain
experience and exposure. At a young age he landed a job singing on the radio,
and was affectionately referred to as "Don Francksinatra."
Don entered into television in 1954, acting in variety shows
and dramas, and writing documentaries and public affairs specials in Toronto and Montreal.
A lead role in the 1966 NBC television series Jericho had everyone believing that Don Francks
would become an overnight sensation and, in fact, the show was ... until Batman
premiered and killed everything else in its time slot. Don was a recipient of
the ACTRA Award for Best Dramatic Performance two years in a row (1980 and
1981) for his roles in Drying Up The Streets and The Phoenix Team. Additional credits include Top Cops, Mister Rogers,
Road to Avonlea, Ice Princess, Wild Wild West, Man
From U.N.C.L.E., Little Men, Traders and Mission Impossible, among others. His
most recent TV run spanned several seasons on La Femme Nikita as the popular
hip and humane section agent Walter.
His film career was launched with his role in Finian's Rainbow as Fred Astaire's
son-in-law, married to Petulah Clark. He went on to
star in Fast Company, My Bloody Valentine, Married To
It and Johnny Mnemonic with Keanu Reeves. Don recently filmed the upcoming film
Love on the Land with Peter Strauss, in which he plays an evangelical preacher
circa 1891, and wrapped production on The Minion with Dolph
Lundgren and Summer of the Monkeys with Wilfred Brimley. His voice has been
heard in literally hundreds of commercials and animated series including Beetlejuice, Free Willy, Cadillacs
& Dinosaurs and Inspector Gadget. He has appeared both on and off Broadway
in such productions as The Flip Side, On A Clear Day,
Kelly and Leonard Bernstein's Theatre Songs. Don plays the trombone, drums and
flute, and has made several jazz albums. He plans to continue singing with his
jazz group in night clubs.
Don, who also goes by the
name Iron Buffalo, lives in Toronto with his wife of over 30 years, Lili (Red Eagle). They have two children, Rainbow
Sun (now a VJ at Canada's Much Music), and his big sister, actress, voice actress
and phenomenal singer Cree Summer (A Different World).
Don enjoys John Lennon, Ravi Shankar, Thelonious
Monk, Johann Sebastian Bach, Dalai Lama, kids, cats and all kinds of craftsmen.
He also spends much of his time writing, directing, recording, filming and
working on the stage.
An avid motorcycle rider for the past 47
years, he has a collection of 12 antique automobiles, mostly Model-T Ford
racing cars from 1912-27. He also has a collection of writings which he keeps
in a book of think and things.
Francks, Don (Harvey). Singer, actor, b Vancouver 28 Feb 1932. An actor as a
child and later a dixieland trombonist, Francks began his CBC career in Vancouver singing on
Lorraine McAllister's radio show 'Sing for Your Supper' and starred 1954-5 with
McAllister on 'The Burns Chuckwagon Show'. At TUTS he
played leads in Oklahoma (1954) and Anything Goes (1955).
Moving to Toronto in 1957 he sang with Patti Lewis on CBC radio's 'Country
Club'. Concurrently Francks took roles in many CBC TV
dramas and in 1961 starred in The Drylanders, the NFB's first feature-length dramatic film. He was in the
cast for productions of The Fantasticks, and of
Spring Thaw, and other revues, and was co-producer of the Toronto production of
the controversial US play by Jack Gelber about the
drug subculture, The Connection, staged 1960-1 at the House of Hambourg with Francks (as Leach),
other actors, and the musicians Maury Kaye (piano), P.J. Perry (saxophone), Ian
Henstridge (bass), and Archie Alleyne
In 1962 Francks formed a jazz trio with Henstridge
and the guitarist Lenny Breau, appearing in
nightclubs in Toronto and New York (eg, at the
Village Vanguard, where they made the LP Jackie Gleason Says No One in This
World Is Like Don Francks, Kapp
KRS-4501, in 1963). Remaining in New York, he recorded Lost... and Alone (1965, Kapp
KS-3417) and appeared on Broadway in the musicals Kelly (1965) and Flipside
(1968), both unsuccessful productions, and off Broadway (1965) in a program of
theatre songs by Leonard Bernstein. In 1967 he played Woody in the Hollywood film of Finian's Rainbow.
After a hiatus,
during which he lived on the Red Pheasant Reserve in western Saskatchewan, Francks resumed his career in the
mid-1970s, appearing in several Canadian cities in jazz clubs and theatres. In
1975 in Saskatoon he staged The Insanity of One Man, using musicians from the
reservation. Returning to live in Toronto he played Lugerio in 1977 in the
musical adaptation by Alan Gordon and Doug Riley of Mandragola
for a CBC broadcast performance and cast recording (LM-448). He again took
dramatic roles on CBC TV and radio, winning ACTRA awards for his work in the TV
movie Drying Up the Streets and the TV series 'The Phoenix Team' in 1980 and
1981 respectively. He also served as narrator for CBC TV's 'The Land' and has been
seen in such productions as Riel (1979) and Labor of Love (1985). Concurrently Francks has performed in Toronto nightclubs (frequently at Basin Street in 1978 and on occasion at George's Spaghetti House
thereafter) and appeared at the Ontario Place jazz festivals of 1979 and 1984.
Of Francks' varied career, Bob Blackburn (Toronto Telegram, 22
Aug 1963) suggested: 'He's furiously driven to communicate with people. He is
full of things he wants to say, but so diversely gifted in means of expression that
he can't settle on one way to communicate. He keeps trying them all'. Francks wrote the libretto for Ron Collier's Hear Me Talkin' to Ya
(1964), basing his text on quotations from jazz musicians and writers. His
Growing Up, a jazz waltz, has been recorded by Paul Hoffert
and Moe Koffman. Francks
also has written many songs.
BC Radio History