Jack Chefe

born: 01 April 1894
Russian Empire
died: 01 December 1975
Los Angeles, California,
United States of America
(age 81)

Russian-born actor who had a decent film career in Hollywood. Often typecast as waiters when he wasn't acting as a dress extra, he would chalk up about 400 known film and television credits in a career that began in the mid-1920s and continued through the early 1960s. His surname is occasionally spelled with an accent on the second "e," and has also been spelled "Chefee."
Jacob Chefetz, the man later known as our subject, hailed from Kiev, Russia -- now known as Kyiv, Ukraine. In the 1920 and 1930 Censuses, he states that both of his parents were born in Kiev. On his 1920 passport application, Jacob gives his father's name as Pincus Chefetz. On his 1940 marriage certificate, the man now known as Jack Chefe claims his father is Pierre Chefe of Russia, and that his mother is an "E. Marot" of France; he also claims to be of French-Russian parentage in his bios in the Motion Picture News Blue Books and the Motion Picture Almanacs. The 1909 marriage record of Jacob/Jack's older brother, Charles Chefetz, gives the parents' names as "Pennie" Chefetz and Hanny Aidelstein. Per his naturalization and passport records, Jacob Chefetz immigrated from Antwerp, Belgium on 10 August 1913, on the SS Kroonland, and arrived at the port of New York 10 days later. Jacob settled in New York City, where he filled out his declaration of intention on 28 January 1916; on the application he gives his occupation as electrician, and gives his personal description thusly: he has a dark complexion, stands 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighs 128 pounds, and possesses brown hair and eyes.
During World War I, Jacob served in the United States Army, his Army serial number being 41,015; interestingly, all of his military records misspell his last name as "Chefety." He enlisted in the Regular Army on 17 April 1917, at Fort Slocum in New York, and initially served in Company A of the 9th Infantry. On 1 August 1917, Jacob was promoted to Private First Class. On 7 September 1917, he began serving overseas. On 10 October 1917, Jacob was transferred to the Headquarters Company of the 9th Infantry, where he would serve until his discharge. He was promoted to Corporal on 13 April 1919, then to Sergeant on 3 May 1919. Jacob's overseas service ended on 27 June 1919, and he received his honorable discharge upon demobilization on 5 July 1919. He was not wounded nor injured in action, and was 0% disabled on date of discharge. His file in the United States Veterans Administration Master Index lists his rank as Sergeant, Casual Detachment, at Mitchel Field in Long Island, New York. Publicity from 1925 says that he was a member of General John J. Pershing's staff at Great Headquarters in France during his WWI service.
Over two months after his discharge, on 30 September 1919, Jacob was naturalized as a United States citizen. On his petition, he gives his occupation as stenographer. In the 1920 Census (16 Jan), "James" Chefetz is living with his brother Charles and his family, and is the manager of an express company. On his passport application from about 7 months later (3 Aug 1920), Jacob is a "clerk-translator." Jacob's personal description from the passport application: he still has a stature of 5 feet 7 inches, as well as a medium [sized] forehead, brown eyes, a prominent nose, a medium [sized] mouth, a pointed chin, black hair, a dark complexion, and an oval [shaped] face.
At some point in the early 1920s, the Russian immigrant Jacob Chefetz would reinvent himself as the Frenchman Jacques "Jack" Chefé. In the spring of 1925, the trades announced that M. H. Karper, of M. H. Karper Productions, had signed renowned French character actor Jacques "Jack" Chefé for film work in America. The publicity touted that he was known as the "Lon Chaney of France" due to his prolific and versatile character work in German, French, and Italian productions, and that he had toured the world with the company of famed French actress Sarah Bernhardt, in addition to noting his WWI service. Karper would boast, "During my ten years in motion picture work I have never met a greater character actor than Jack Chefé. I am offering him as the greatest motion picture discovery of the last decade. There is no doubt about his tremendous value to the screen." In the following four decades, Jack would indeed bring some value to the screen... albeit as a mostly uncredited bit player and dress extra. Another piece from later in the year mentions Jack playing "six distinctive parts" in the film "The Reckless Lady" (released 1926).
In his biographies in the Motion Picture News Blue Books (1929, 1930) and the Motion Picture Almanac (1931, 1932, 1937-38), Jack states he was educated in Russia, France, and America, specializing in drama, law, and business; B. C. S. of New York University, 1925; in college, he was elected best actor. He has lived in Kiev, Odessa, Paris, Berlin, and other European cities, in addition to New York and Hollywood, and performed on the stage in Europe. The Blue Books state that he "[w]as in and out of pictures for a long time but steady since 1925. Was on stage in New York after he graduated from N. Y. U. Sam Katzman, now with Fox, induced him to take up picture work." It is also noted in the Blue Book bios that Jack is a member of the American Legion, Hollywood Post No. 43, and the Second Division Association. His sporting hobbies are given as horseback riding, ice skating, swimming, and dancing. Across all bios, his personal statistics remained the same: 5 feet 8½ inches tall, 148 pounds, with dark brown eyes and dark brown hair.
On 18 January 1940, Jack married Anne Rand (1915-2008), a 26-year old New York native who was 21 years Jack's junior, in North Hollywood, California. They had two sons, Joel Pierre Chefe (b. 1942) and Eric Stephen Chefe (1945-1977). A notice in Variety regarding Eric's birth notes that Anne is a former actress. The marriage lasted for 35 years until Jack's death. (This all partially disproves Lowell Thurgood's bio of Jack at Find a Grave, which incorrectly claims Jack "never married nor fathered any children.") Interestingly, Jack's 1940 marriage certificate gives his occupation as insurance agent, for Occidental Life Insurance. Three months later, in the 1940 Census (22 Apr), "John" Chefe is unemployed, and has been for 16 weeks up to 30 March 1940; his wife, Ann(e), is a private secretary, although she too has been unemployed for a similar period (13 weeks). Jack worked 17 weeks in 1939 and earned $1,800 (equivalent to just under $40,000 in 2023 dollars) plus additional outside income; Anne worked the whole 52 weeks of 1939 and earned $600 (over $13,000 in 2023 dollars).
On his World War II draft registration card (dated 25 Apr 1942), Jack Chefé (accent over the "e" as written and signed on the card) is working for "various films [sic] studios" as a "free-lance actor." His personal description is given as such: he stands 5'8", weighs 146, and has brown eyes, brown hair, sallow complexion, and a "scar [on his] middle right back." In the 1950 Census (31 Mar), Jack is a motion picture actor at a motion picture studio, having worked only 8 hours the previous week. In an interesting contrast to the marriage certificate a decade before, it is now Anne, rather than Jack, who is an insurance agent for a life insurance company; she worked 30 hours the previous week. With them are 7-year old Joel and 5-year old Eric.
After his passing, Jack was cremated (through Rosedale Crematory) and his remains were buried at sea near Malibu, California.
Real name: Jacob Chefetz
Height: 5'8½"
Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography;
plus 1 film with Laurel & Hardy; 1 film with Charley Chase.


Double Whoopee
Hotel guest

Leaping Love
Club patron

The Hoose-Gow
Party guest

Skip The Maloo!
Party guest

Soup And Fish
Dinner guest

Topper Takes A Trip
Passerby/Nightclub patron

Broadway Limited
Passenger in dining car

Flying With Music
Nightclub patron

The Devil With Hitler

Taxi, Mister
Burlesque house extra

Modern Love

The Flying Deuces

(click any image to enlarge)

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QP8K-CD4Y (1916 declaration of intention)
https://www.familysearch.org/search/record/results?count=20&q.givenName=Jacob&q.surname=Chefety&f.collectionId=3346936 (muster rolls and rosters)
Jacob Chefety, "New York, U.S., Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919" (Ancestry.com)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QP24-ZFV5 (1919 petition for nat.)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KFXX-9PG (nat. record)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJB5-KRL (1920 Census)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV5B-WYZV (1920 passport app.)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:68GR-K33Q (1921 UK pass. list)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J6KH-C46 (1921 pass. list)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCJ1-6T1 (1930 Census)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8V6-C2Y (1940 marriage)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9C6-C4X (1940 Census)
Jack Chefe, "U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942" (Ancestry.com)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6XGS-32FV (1950 Census)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VP2K-R1Q (CA Death Index)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V32B-661 (Social Security Death Index)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QPZC-H5K7 (U.S. Veterans Adm. Master Index)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6CYG-Y5F4 (cremation record)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6CYG-Y5FH (cremation record)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6CYG-Y5FZ (cremation record)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:6CYG-Y5F8 (cremation record)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:D5XD-Z9PZ (cemetery index)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:8CGM-RK6Z (cemetery interment reg.)
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/103754704 (Find a Grave)
https://archive.org/details/movpicwor73movi/page/n750/mode/1up?q=%22jack+chefe%22&view=theater (Moving Picture World, 25 Apr 1925)
https://archive.org/details/movingpicturewor74mayj/page/76/mode/1up?q=%22jack+chefe%22&view=theater (Moving Picture World, 02 May 1925)
https://archive.org/details/sim_billboard_1925-05-02_37_18/page/n7/mode/1up?q=%22jack+chefe%22&view=theater (Billboard, 02 May 1925)
https://archive.org/details/exhibitorstrade00new/page/n201/mode/1up?q=%22jack+chefe%22&view=theater (Exhibitors Trade Review, 19 Dec 1925)
https://digitalcollections.oscars.org/digital/collection/p15759coll35/id/5505/rec/8 (Standard Casting Directory, Feb 1927)
https://archive.org/details/variety157-1945-03/page/n160/mode/1up?q=%22jack+chefe%22&view=theater (Variety, 21 Mar 1945)
https://archive.org/details/motionpicturenew1929moti/page/62/mode/1up?view=theater&q=chefee (1929 Motion Picture News Blue Book)
https://archive.org/details/motionpicturenew1930moti/page/43/mode/1up?view=theater&q=chefee (1930 Motion Picture News Blue Book)
https://archive.org/details/motionpicturealm00quig_0/page/n163/mode/1up?view=theater&q=%22che+fee%22 (1931 Motion Picture Almanac)
https://archive.org/details/motionpicturealm00quig/page/n145/mode/1up?view=theater&q=chefe (1932 Motion Picture Almanac)
https://archive.org/details/international193738quig/page/200/mode/1up?view=theater&q=chefe (1937-38 International Motion Picture Almanac)
https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24H8-JCY (brother Charles Chefetz's marriage, 1909)
Jim Jarvis (draft records)
Jesse Brisson (bio notes and research; identification in Double Whoopee, Leaping Love, Skip The Maloo!, The Hoose-Gow, Soup And Fish)

This page was last updated on: 01 April 2024