RIP Don Francks

Missed this news somehow and I guess because he isn’t a really well known in media today, I guess Facebook posts were also at a bare minimum. Actor & jazz musician Don Francks died Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 84. A veteran of classic American cop and detective TV shows like Mission Impossible, Mannix and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., his Toronto agent Jennifer Goldhar on Monday confirmed his death. Born in Vancouver on Feb. 28, 1932, Francks, as a young jazz musician and vocalist, drove east to Toronto and starred in a host of 1950s CBC TV specials. He later moved to New York City, where he performed in the 1960s at the Blue Angel and recorded a live album at the Village Vanguard.

As a spokesman for Other Voices (Canadian TV series) in mid-1960s, he investigated a boy’s murder at Saskatchewan Red Pheasant First Nation. He married and moved there with his second wife Lili Francks, named there as Red Eagle. He was adopted as a Cree, and named Iron Buffalo “strong like iron. Like the buffalo who knows where to go, is a good provider and good for his family”. She is dancer and member of the Plains Cree First Nation. His acting career got started with the CBC in 1954 as a regular on Burns Chuckwagon From the Stampede Corral, a Western-themed series with musical artists, and other Canadian shows such as Riding High and The Adventures of Tugboat Annie. In the 1960s, he also guest starred on classic U.S. TV series including The Wild Wild West, The Virginian and Ben Casey, and played the role of U.S. Army captain Franklin Sheppard on the short-lived 1966 drama Jericho.

After leaving entertainment to live on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan as Iron Buffalo, Francks returned to Toronto in 1974. His subsequent film and TV credits included Joel Surnow’s La Femme Nikita, in which he played the role of Walter; The Listener; My Bloody Valentine; and more recently a stint on Gangland Undercover. On the movie front, Francks co-starred alongside Petula Clark and Fred Astaire in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1968 fantasy musical Finian’s Rainbow. Since 1979, he has been living in Toronto with wife Lili and their son Rainbow Sun (former MuchMusic VJ & actor from Stargate Atlantis & The Listener). His daughter Cree Summer resides and works in Hollywood. He has two children from his first marriage, his son Trane and a daughter.

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