Don Francks Honored By Director Jon Cassar Among Others

Don Francks passed away earlier this month on April 3 at age 84, another victim of cancer, and Francks has since been remembered by the many entertainment professionals whose lives Don touched throughout a multifaceted career. Francks explored his talents as a jazz musician, a vocalist, and an actor for far longer than most people may realize, and that lifelong career in the entertainment industry has touched and changed more lives that Francks, himself, probably realized.

The Life And Times Of Don Francks

Don Francks was a Canadian actor, having been born in Burnaby, British Columbia. He began pursuing a career in the entertainment industry when he began singing professionally at age 6 and then entered into acting a few years later at age 10. As Don matured and became available for more adult roles, he starred in such television shows as Mission Impossible, Mannix, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Francks got his acting start with the Canadian network, CBC, where he was cast in prominent roles in Burns Chuckwagon From the Stampede Corral, Riding High, and The Adventures of Tugboat Annie.

A few years later, Francks got his first feature film break co-starring in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1968 Finian’s Rainbow, a fantasy musical that also starred Petula Clark and Fred Astaire.

Possibly the most popular Don Francks ever had came in the Joel Surnow-directed La Femme Nikita. Aside from Peta Wilson’s Nikita, Franck’s Walter stood out as one of the most beloved characters of La Femme Nikita‘s ensemble cast. Don played the gruff yet lovable Walter, whose constant flirtations and come-ons to the much younger Nikita proved to add just the right level of levity and comic relief to the otherwise somber spy show. La Femme Nikita ran from 1997 to 2001.

Don is survived by his wife, Lili Francks, and four children, actress Cree Summer Francks (A Different World, Inspector Gadget), actor/songwriter Rainbow Francks, Trane Francks, and Tyler Francks.

La Femme Nikita And Heavy Metal Actor Don Francks Is Remembered By His Colleagues

In 2012, radio host and musician Jaymz Bee recounted his first introduction to Don Franck’s musical performances, when he happened to catch Don playing at Top O’ the Senator, a jazz club, a decade earlier. Jaymz was so impressed by Don’s concerts that he went back to catch all four showings, bringing a different group of friends to each concert.

“A decade later I got together with my pal Ray Irwin and we financed (as a gift to him) a pressing of 1000 CD’s of the Senator show, recorded by Danny Greenspoon, and put out 21st Century Francks, available on iTunes,” said Bee at the time of the album’s release.

Jaymz Bee speaks of Francks as both a friend and as a fan, touting the actor and musician as an artist in every sense of the word.

“Calling Don Francks a Renaissance Man is stinting praise. A poet, actor, singer, jazz musician, writer, arranger…the guy could paint, dance…he collected and restored vintage cars, rode a chopper and usually performed bare footed. He made friends in nano seconds and never cared if you were a millionaire or a homeless person. His entire family are in showbiz and all extremely talented. The apple doesn’t fall far from the blender.”

Bee isn’t alone in his praise of Francks. Whether he acted on stage or on screen, or delivered another stellar performance with one of his live jazz concerts, there seemed to be no limit to the praise showered over Don Francks and the legacy he left behind. Another such fan all too eager to express his feelings about Don is Canadian songwriter and global copyright advocate Eddie Schwartz.

“I was maybe 12 or 13 years old when my parents took me to see The Fantasticks at the Toronto Central Library Theater. I loved every minute of it and I remember the music and Don Francks’ wonderful performance vividly,” Schwartz says of Francks’ performance. “As a budding songwriter and artist Don inspired me and so many others, and imparted a courage to those of us dreaming of a life in music and the arts – and at a time when Canada could seem a very cold and remote place for those kinds of ambitions.”

Producer and director Jon Cassar worked on La Femme Nikita with Mr. Francks, having directed 14 episodes, including the series pilot, and years later, he shared his thoughts on the passing of the beloved and respected actor.

“Sad day. Don Francks has left us,” tweeted Cassar. “He truly was 1 of a kind. Honored to have worked with him those years on Nikita RIP.”

[Image by Don Dixon]

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