Irene Pawley Baldwin was my grandmother.
She was not my biological grandmother, but she was the only maternal grandmother I ever knew. My biological maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young adult. Therefore, Irene, or “Mamama” as I called her, was always my grandmother.
Her name may not mean much to you, but I think you will find her connections to Hollywood and Washington fascinating.
You see, my grandmother was originally cast as “Bonnie Blue” in Gone with the Wind. The little girl who ended up playing Scarlett and Rhett’s daughter in the iconic movie was actually her understudy. My grandmother had to leave Hollywood suddenly when her father became ill. Or so that is the story she told.
You might also be interested in learning more about my grandmother’s almost sister-in-law. A woman by the name of Elizabeth Taylor.
Yes, I was almost related to Elizabeth Taylor. Not the Lindsay Lohan version, but the real, authentic Liz herself.
However, knowing what we know now about the woman, I probably would have never even met her. You see, Liz was engaged to my grandmother’s brother, Bill Pawley, when she was only 17. Her first of many engagements. Bill was much older, and he demanded that young Elizabeth give up acting to be his wife. Well, she wasn’t happy about that and broke off the engagement. And the rest, folks, is history. Bill was always at the many Pawley events and holiday parties that I attended as a child, and he was always a good looking older man. No wonder he attracted the likes of Hollywood’s most beautiful of stars.
Perhaps the most fascinating of the Pawley clan was my grandmother’s father, William D. Pawley Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to Peru, Brazil, and former President of the Nacional Cubana de Aviación Curtiss in Cuba (later sold to Pan Am), and the China National Aviation Corporation. My grandmother, the youngest of four, was a baby when the family lived in Shanghai between 1933-1938. William Pawley was appointed Ambassador to Peru and then Brazil under President Harry Truman in 1945 and ’48 respectively. He was later an active member of the Republican Party and close friend of President Eisenhower’s and former CIA director, Allen W. Dulles. He was a part of many CIA operations during the nineteen forties and fifties.
William Pawley Sr. was also credited with being the founder of the Flying Tigers of World War II.
He killed himself in his Miami Beach home in 1977. The official reason that was given was due to his battle with shingles, but there are many family rumors surrounding his death.
My grandmother continued her legacy of being surrounded by prominent, attractive men by later marrying my grandfather, Charles Jackson Baldwin. Stay tuned for more on his legacy in South Florida.