Sheila Guyse

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Sheila Guyse
Born Etta Drucille Guyse
July 14, 1925
Forest, Mississippi, U.S.
Died December 28, 2013(2013-12-28) (aged 88)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Cause of death Alzheimer's disease
Nationality African-American
Other names Shelia Guyse Jackson
Occupation Actress, Singer
Spouse(s) Shelby Irving Miller (divorced)
Kenneth Davis (divorced)
Joseph Jackson (m. 1958; his death 2012)
Children Sheila Crystal Miller; Deidre Jean Jackson and Michael Jackson
Parent(s) Wilbert and Ethel "Williams" Guyse

Etta Drucille Guyse, known as Sheila Guyse (July 14, 1925 – December 28, 2013), was a popular African-American singer, actress, and recording artist, performing on stage and screen during the 1940s and 1950s.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sheila Guyse was born on July 14, 1925, in Forest, Mississippi. She moved with her parents in 1945 to Manhattan, New York City, where she worked at a dime store on 125th Street, across from the Apollo Theater.[2]

Guyse first got her start in show business by performing in amateur shows, as was common among black performers. She made nightclub debut in 1945 at Club Zombie in Detroit.[2]


She was often compared to Dorothy Dandridge and it has been said that some critics thought Guyse was a better actress than the more well-known Dandridge. It may be argued that if Sheila had been allowed the opportunity to make an impact in the Hollywood cinema, she would have been stiff competition for the more established actress.[3][better source needed]

Race films[edit]

Guyse had a sultry "girl-next-door" appeal which she showcased in three independent all-Black films (so-called "race films") of the late 1940s: Boy! What a Girl! (1947), Sepia Cinderella (1947, co-starring with Billy Daniels), and Miracle in Harlem (1948) giving impressive performances in all of them. She also appeared in the "Harlem Follies of 1949" and in a 1957 television adaptation of the play The Green Pastures.


Guyse was not an experienced or trained actress but she was a natural talent. She made her Broadway debut in the stage production Memphis Bound, which opened in 1945. She was selected to play the female lead opposite Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. The show closed after 36 performances.[2] She also appeared in the Broadway stage productions Lost in the Stars and Finian's Rainbow, which were both long-running. Lost in the Stars won a Outer Circle Critics Award. Guyse contributed to cast recordings for these productions, and her singing voice was said to be as beautiful as she was: divine, sweet, easy on the ears whether singing jazz, pop, or gospel.[4][not in citation given]


Sheila Guyse was popular in the 1940s and 1950s, and graced many covers of publications such as Jet, Ebony, and Our World. She also was known to grace the cover of a magazine called Hue.


Sheila Guyse was married three times. She married and divorced Shelby Irving Miller, and their union produced one daughter, Sheila Crystal Miller. Guyse's most publicized marriage, however, was to her second husband, Kenneth Davis. The couple was featured in the article "Negro Women with White Husbands" in the February 1952 issue of Jet. Guyse and Davis met on the set of Finian's Rainbow, where Davis was a dancer. They married in Philadelphia, but spent the majority of their marriage in the Bronx, NY.[5] In 1954 Ken Davis and Sheila Guyse announced that they would end their marriage.[6] In 1958 Guyse married Joseph Jackson, a sanitation worker in New York, and they had two children: Deidre Jean Jackson and Michael Jackson. Guyse later became a Jehovah's Witness due to her marriage to Jackson. The couple remained married until his death in 2012.[1]


Shelia Guyse's health played a very important role in her career as a performer and entertainer. She struggled with her heath many times throughout her career which caused her to turn down various roles and even take time away from the entertainment industry. In 1953, she was diagnosed with stomach ulcers a day after she had accepted a role in the Broadway stage production Mile High.[7] She later came back to the entertainment industry in 1958 to record her only studio album, This is Sheila.[1] Although she attempted to make a career comeback she struggled to get back into industry. She died of complications due to Alzheimer's disease on December 28, 2013, at the age of 88.[1]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d William Yardley, "Sheila Guyse, Singer and Star in ‘Race Movies,’ Dies at 88", The New York Times, January 15, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Sampson, Henry (1995). Blacks in Black and White:A Source Book on Black Films. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow. p. 524. 
  3. ^ "Sheila Guyse profile". IMDB. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Sheila Guyse - Our sweetheart". Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Jet". February 21, 1952. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Jet". September 16, 1954. 
  7. ^ "Actress Sheila Guyse Hospitalized". Jet. January 29, 1953.