PENNY & RED: The LIFE of SECRETARIAT's OWNER w/BONUS SPECIAL FEATURES
From her parents' climb out of poverty to her own emergence as the "First Lady of Racing," Penny Chenery has always been fueled by the love of horses. Forever paired with the great SECRETARIAT, Penny's personal story also exemplifies the struggles and triumphs of women in her generation. Weaving together previously-unreleased photos and films from the Chenery family archives, and intimate conversations with filmmaker (and Penny's son) John Tweedy, "Penny & Red" reveals her story as never before. Special features include the original movie trailer, digitally re-mastered crisp color versions of SECRETARIAT's Triple Crown races and rare footage of his years at stud at Claiborne Farm. A stunningly honest account of Penny's life made more poignant and powerful by her unsparing self-reflection.
Fans of the great horse SECRETARIAT who have seen the races and the Disney movie know BIG RED's story. They might think they know the story of his beautiful owner, Penny Chenery. They almost certainly don't. Beyond the winner's circle, life was not so sweet for SECRETARIAT's owner.
Now, in this documentary film produced by Chenery's son, filmmaker John Tweedy, Chenery opens up about her life and the personal upheaval that was going on behind the scenes during the 1973 Triple Crown season.
The year of SECRETARIAT was one of incredible turmoil: The Vietnam War was finally ending, the Watergate scandal was erupting and bringing down a president, the Battle of the Sexes was playing out on the tennis courts.
The public was desperate for heroes and the pure joy that SECRETARIAT represented.
But fans had only the merest hints of Chenery's struggles.
She has long been recognized for her role as a ground-breaking female sports and media figure and for feminizing a traditionally male sport, opening it up to women and to fans. Even today, she says, she has a hard time seeing herself as a feminist. "My actions, my decisions all grew out of my own feelings, and my own needs. I just happened to be a woman in a man's world," Chenery said in an interview. "I get letters from fans, and they say, 'Oh, you're such a role model.' If that's true, it's a happy by-product of living my life. ... When I say I'm not a feminist, I am ... in the sense that I want women to be free to be themselves."
Now, 40+ years after that season in the spotlight with SECRETARIAT, she wants to tell a side of the story she has never discussed publicly and she acknowledges that it's a risk.
"I don't know how it's going to work out," Chenery said. "It may spoil my image. I don't know and at this point, I don't care. Actually it was very freeing to go ahead and do the interview."
And not the Disney version.
In part, she says, it's to counter the glamorized, sweet version of the story brought back into the public sphere by Disney's 2010 movie starring Diane Lane as Chenery. (Lane narrates Penny & Red.)
"I'm 91. There's nothing more that I need to prove, and I might as well let the story be accurate," Chenery said.
In Penny & Red, she reveals that the image of the poised and serene housewife she represented in the winner's circles was only half the story. What the cameras didn't see at the time was her private rage.
"I was just angry to the core," Chenery says now.
In breathtakingly candid interviews with her son, she admits in the film that anger spilled out onto her children as well.
"At the time, I was so bottled up in my own distress, that I did not pay attention to their needs," Chenery said.
As she put it in the film, "I thought, 'Tough sh--. This is the just the way I am.' "
Her anger, Chenery said, came from her deep unhappiness in her marriage to Jack Tweedy and in her life.
"Materially she did have a lot of advantages," her son John explained, "but she had a lot of the expectations and role boundaries that women of her era experienced."
Chenery said, "I had done the wife-and-mother bit, and community participation, Junior League, children's theater, and all of that and just was ready for something different for me. I was angry because I was cooped up in a box that I didn't choose - I needed an exit from that.
"The horses provided that."
Saving her life.
Horses had been Chenery's refuge as a child, an escape from a difficult sibling relationship. As an adult, they would help pull her out of a crumbling marriage.
In 1967, Chenery's mother died and her father needed her help running his racing operation, Meadow Stable.
As her oldest daughter, Sarah Manning, says in the film, "It was just so clear that for Penny, being able to take over for her father was saving her life."
First, legendary horse RIVA RIDGE, who won the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, and then SECRETARIAT in 1973 gave her the validation she was desperate for, Chenery says.
Finally she wasn't so angry any more.
She and her children have worked through their anger as well. "We've had our ups and downs, but since I've moved to Colorado, where they live, we have good relationships and happy times together," Chenery said. "It takes work."
Tweedy's film has amplified that.
"The filmmaking process has been a wonderful exercise in exploration, catharsis and healing, frankly for Mom and for our family," Tweedy said. "The level of honesty that she gave us in the film was just remarkable. It sort of helped me, as a filmmaker and her son, understand her better and understand the parts of her life that we didn't understand, and provide context about the outer triumphs and inner struggles."
|Format(s) Available:||DVD And VHS|
|Category:||U.S. & Canadian Flat Racing|