Raffael Chefalo (1885-1963) was an Italian-born illusionist who moved to the U.S. in his childhood, learning the rudiments of magic as a teenager, and breaking into American vaudeville. According to Milbourne Christopher, it was Chefalo’s friend Houdini who, in 1907, suggested he expunge patter from his act and do it in pantomime, no doubt owing to his Italian accent. Like the Houdinis, Chefalo performed in a team with his wife: they were billed as Palermo and Chefalo, The Wizards in White. In 1910, the two were booked to play England with an act called “Garden of Magic”. For the better part of three decades, they toured the world, the Continent, South America, the Far East…(this one of the benefits of having a silent magic act). After his wife Magda Palermo died in 1939, he incorporated his second wife into the act and they became Magdalena and Chefalo. Chefalo was still performing at age 77 when he died in Korea in 1963.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.