Remembering a local actress

Published 11:08 am Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Women’s History Month is drawing to a close, and what better way to recognize it than looking into Middlesboro’s past and highlighting the accomplishments of a Middlesboro woman who accomplished things of which many only dream.

Daughter of Cardwell Furniture founder Ballard Cardwell, Susan Kingsley was an acclaimed actress of the stage and was building a career in film before she tragically passed away at the age of 38 from a head-on vehicle collision.

Born in Middlesboro in 1946, Kingsley not only studied at the University of Kentucky but also the London Academy of Dramatic Art. She then went on to become a leading actress with the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

An older article written for the Middlesboro Daily News by Staff Writer Bob Stoner cites critical raves of Kingsley’s work on stage as “one of the best American Actresses” — this from critic Lawrence Devine of the Detroit Free Press. London Guardian newspaper’s Michael Billington called Kingsley “a lean, toothy wonder of an actress.”

Kingsley shared the stage with such talent as Kathy Bates in the play “Chocolate Cake.” Bates is an acclaimed actress with over 40 years experience and is still working today in film and television.

Of Kingsley’s performance in “Chocolate Cake,” Newsweek stated, “Kingsley is devastating as she prowls the premises, twitching in an epilepsy of sugar-lust and proclaiming that ‘you can count on a man for a month, or a year if you get a good one, but hot fudge is forever’.”

Kingsley also starred in the play “Getting Out,” which was cited as the best play of the year for 1978-79.

Aside from the stage, Kingsley worked on many high-profile films in small roles. Her credits on film include “Popeye” starring Robin Williams, “The Coal Miners Daughter” starring Sissy Spacek, and “The Dollmaker” — an acclaimed made for television film based off of the bestselling novel of the same name about a Kentucky frontier woman’s hardship with uprooting her family during World War II. The title character was played by Jane Fonda.

Susan Kingsley is just one of many female Middlesboro natives who found success pursuing her dreams and is an appropriate representation of what Women’s History Month is all about.

Information for this article was provided by The Bell County Historical Society.