Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Remembering Actress Sheila Guyse July 14, 1925 - December 28, 2014

I first learned about Sheila Guyse maybe six years ago. A rainy day, hanging at home with my mother who was in her 80's at the time. I had bought her a laptop and my mother always the modern woman was "on the net" looking for some movies from her time. Finally she stumbled on some sort of archive site that had a lot of old "Race Movies" movies that were distributed specifically for negro audiences in the United States Of America. We saw Halleijuah starring Nina Mae Mckinney a couple of shorts that showed, Mamie Smith, some all girl band from the late 30s that I cant remember and then " Oh Boy What A Girl" a hilrious movie that starred Tim Moore who plays a male in a vaudevile troupe who gets duped into dressing up as a woman and becoming a rich lady who is going to invest in a Broadway show. What a movie Miss. Guyse played the daughter of one of the investors daughters in this screwball comedy that to me dispelled any myths that all race movies were inferior to the usual Hollywood fare I had been weened on. Miss Guyse was an Apollo Theater amateur contest winner and subsequently landed a small role on Broadway in the musical " Memphis Bound" then made the subsequent movies Oh Boy what a girl (1947) starring Time Moore, Sepia Cinderella which also co starred Tondayleo Levy!(1948) Broadway show "Finians Rainbow (1947) Lost in the stars (1948) Former husbands were Shelby Miler ( a tailor) and Kenneth Davis which lasted eight years. Mr Davis was a white man and she appered on the cover of pocket magazine "jet" with him in 1952 he was a ballet dancer and the cover of jet proclaimed ": Negro women with white husbands" she was very proud of this marriage and gave a supberb and intelligent intervie. I cant say it endered her to African American women at that time tho. Remmeber during this time LenaHornes husband was the white band leader Lennie Hayton, Pearl Bailey married the white drummer Louis Bellson, and Josephine Baker was married to a white parisian. Due to health complications ( she had surgery for bleeding ulcers) and a religious conversion to Jeahovahs Wittness she left show business but lived to the ripe age of 88. This is one blogger who will miss her. I always remember my mother explaining to me the importance of these "race" stars. These were the women little black girls had to look up to. They admired their hair, their make up, their clothes and most of all remember these actresses looked like them!
The following id from the New York Times: Sheila Guyse, a popular actress and singer who appeared on Broadway and in so-called race movies in the 1940s and ’50s, and who for a time, despite limited opportunities in the entertainment industry, appeared headed for broader fame, died on Dec. 28 in Honolulu. She was 88. The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, her daughter Sheila Crystal Devin said. For several years, Ms. Guyse (rhymes with “nice”) was compared to stars like Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and Ruby Dee, black actresses who broke through racial barriers. But by the late 1950s she was out of show business, a result of some combination of health problems, a religious conversion and family obligations. She left behind a handful of films. The best is probably “Sepia Cinderella” (1947), in which she played a girl-next-door who is initially overlooked by the musician she loves, played by the singer Billy Daniels. She also appeared in Broadway musicals and in nightclubs. Her only album, “This Is Sheila,” a collection of standards released by MGM Records in 1958, a decade after her heyday, was supposed to be a comeback. That November, Jet magazine put her on its cover. Photo Sheila Guyse “Sheila Guyse, a glamorous, high-octane performer under supper club spotlights,” the article said, “is a singer who has had to overcome serious illness, marriage failures, financial pressures and professional disappointments in her long campaign to create a career in show business.” The article quoted Ms. Guyse as saying, “I was discouraged and depressed for a while, but now life looks a lot better to me,” and mentioned a five-year recording contract. But the comeback never happened. Ms. Guyse, who had surgery for bleeding ulcers in the mid-1950s, continued to have health problems. Ms. Devin, her daughter, recalled once finding her collapsed in her bedroom, bleeding from the mouth. In addition, Ms. Guyse’s husband did not want her to have a career, Ms. Devin said. Ms. Guyse’s first two marriages had ended in divorce, and she was a struggling single mother when she met Joseph Jackson, a New York sanitation worker so enthralled by her that he would sometimes follow her in his garbage truck. After they married, in the late 1950s, Ms. Guyse stopped performing and became increasingly involved with a Jehovah’s Witness hall in Queens. “It wasn’t easy to be a glamorous movie star with people following you for your autograph and now you’re home making pancakes,” Ms. Devin said. “She did it, but I don’t think it was easy.” Etta Drucille Guyse was born on July 14, 1925, in Forest, Miss. She took Sheila as a stage name. She followed her father, Wilbert, to New York when she was a teenager and, her daughter said, lived for a time in a Harlem rooming house with Billie Holiday. After winning an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater, Ms. Guyse had a small role on Broadway in the musical “Memphis Bound!” and appeared in a series of all-black films, beginning with a small role in “Boy! What a Girl!” (1947), which starred the vaudeville performer Tim Moore. She moved on to starring roles in “Sepia Cinderella” and “Miracle in Harlem” (1948), in which she played a woman wrongly accused of murder. Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story Advertisement She also appeared in the Broadway musicals “Finian’s Rainbow” (1947) and “Lost in the Stars” (1949). In addition to Ms. Devin, who has worked as a model and actress under the name Sheila Anderson, Ms. Guyse is survived by another daughter, Deidre Devin, from her marriage to Mr. Jackson; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A son, Michael Jackson, died a few years ago. Joseph Jackson died in 2012. Ms. Guyse moved back to Mississippi in the 1980s and to Hawaii about five years ago. Her first marriage, to Ms. Devin’s father, a tailor named Shelby Irving Miller, was very brief. Her second, to Kenneth Davis, whom she had met while both performed in “Finian’s Rainbow,” lasted eight years. Mr. Davis, who was white, became a dancer with American Ballet Theater. In 1952, a photograph of the couple appeared on a cover of Jet with the headline “Negro Women With White Husbands.”
“I don’t go about looking for difficulties,” Ms. Guyse said in the article. “It took me a long time to decide to marry Ken, but I’m glad I did. We’ve been very happy. Intelligence and understanding are needed to make a marriage like ours succeed. It takes more than love. You have to have a mind of your own and be able to ignore what the world is saying and thinking about you.”

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