Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cheshire Beauties

On Monday night I saw "Goodnight Ladies," Christianna Hannum's movie about her grandmother, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum, the longtime Master of Foxhounds of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds. It is an utter delight. If you love foxhunting and/or Unionville, you will want to see it.
The 35-minute documentary opens with a wryly amused Mrs. Hannum reading her prematurely published obituary. Christy goes on to interview her about her life and family and foxhunting and accompanies her on a few bumpy outings over Cheshire's fine hunting country in her iconic beat-up Jeep. These provide some of the film's funniest scenes, as we see Mrs. Hannum inform huntsman Joe Cassidy where the fox is likely to be, and where his hounds should be going, and where he and the field should be headed next. Joe listens politely and patiently and then just rides off in the direction he wants to go.
Another hilarious scene is when a physician visits Mrs. Hannum, taking her medical history. Only when prompted does she mention that she was struck by lightning.
When was this? asks the startled doctor.
Oh, six months ago, she tells him. When he asks her if she sought medical attention, she tells him no; she was still alive, so what was the point?
In another scene shot one snowy morning, Mrs. Hannum answers the phone -- "Cheshire Stables" -- and tells the caller that no, the Hunt won't be going out that morning. She graciously thanks the caller for phoning, and then immediately after hanging up wonders how anyone could possibly think they'd be hunting that morning.
And yes, Christy also gets her grandmother to tell the story about her infamous roadside run-in with that hapless state trooper. There are also some marvelous old photos and archival footage from hunts past. (I'm still amazed that women hunted while riding sidesaddle!)

I could go on and on. It's a great film and it's available on DVD for purchase ($28) at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, or at the Brandywine River Museum's gift shop, or contact Christy at

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