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Don Francks

Donald Harvey "Don" Francks or Iron Buffalo (born February 28, 1932-April 3, 2016) was a Canadian actor, vocalist and jazz musician. He plays Count Mein and Mr. Big in Beetlejuice: The Animated Series (1989-91).

Personal life and work[]

Francks was born and raised in Burnaby Vancouver British Columbia. He once attributed his voice talent and career to free elocution lessons by Muriel Davis from age eight. 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, California.

An avid motorcycle rider, he has a collection of 12 antique cars, mostly Model-T Ford racing cars from 1912 to 1927. He is a poet, native nations champion, author and peace activist. He supports Greenpeace and Tibet.

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. Since 1979, he has been living in Toronto with wife Lili and their son Rainbow Sun. His Daughter Cree Summer resides and works in Hollywood. He has two children from his first marriage, Trane and Tyler.


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

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

In 2010 Francks performed on CJRT-FM and has since 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 can still be found performing in Toronto jazz clubs seasonally, including an annual stint for The TD Toronto Jazz Festival.


Francks's acting career began with CBC Television as a regular on Burns Chuckwagon from the Stampede Corral (1955) 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 in the 1968 musical film Finian's Rainbow, directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

This Land (1970-1986) was a CBC-TV documentary series on Canadian nature, wildlife, natural resources, and life in remote communities. Francks composed and conducted all of the music for this series, and 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 was Walter in the La Femme Nikita (TV series).

His early television credits include: Mission: Impossible, Wild Wild West, Little Men, Traders and several episodic television appearances. His film work includes The Big Town with Tommy Lee Jones, the cult slasher film My Bloody Valentine and Johnny Mnemonic. He appeared with David McCallum on TV episode for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., on stage in "The Flip Side", and in the movie "Terminal Choice".

On 16 Feb 1964, Francks 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.


He provides the voice of "Skunk" in Gene Simmons' animated television show My Dad the Rock Star.

As a voice-actor, Francks is the first person to portray Boba Fett, a Mandalorian bounty hunter. He played Fett in Star Wars Holiday Special and reprised the role in an episodes of Star Wars: Droids. Francks voiced several characters in Inspector Gadget (1983-86) along with his daughter, Cree Summer, who voiced Penny during the first season of the show. Francks also provided the voice for Mok Swagger in the 1983 Canadian animated film Rock and Rule. He also plays Count Mein and Mr. Big in Beetlejuice: The Animated Series (1989-91).