Annabeth Gish, who grew up in Cedar Falls, has had a year of playing wives.

She was Wyatt Earp's first wife, Urilla, sharing big-screen time with Kevin Costner in the movie Wyatt Earp. Now she's Rhett Butler's new bride after he dumps the infamous scheming Scarlett and settles down with the earnest Anne Hampton.

So Timothy Dalton, an ex-James Bond, and Gish end up in some rather steamy scenes - Rhett seduces the pure Anne and then feels obligated to marry her. But because Scarlett is a lavish, first-class soap opera, the relationship is not that simple.

"I die in this film," Gish says at a CBS press event this summer. "Yellow fever - not a nice death."

A Student No More.

Complimented on how slim and sophisticated she looks in a black sheath, she says: "I lost my college weight. No more studying for exams, so I can control my lifestyle a lot better."

After graduating from Malcolm Price Laboratory School, run by the University of Northern Iowa, the actress went on to Duke University in Durham, N.C., where she majored in English and gender studies*. She graduated in the spring of 1993. While she was in college, her parents, Robert F. Gish and Judith K. Stephenson Gish, also moved away from Iowa. They joined the faculty of California Polytechnic State University.

Now 22, Gish had her first acting role at age 7. She was in UNI's production of "Wait Until Dark."

She remembers writing to her distant relative, actress Lillian Gish, when she was growing up, looking for words of encouragement. "But instead," Annabeth Gish says, "she told me to stay put with my family. That there was too much talent in the acting profession and not enough work."

But by the time Gish was 13, she had her first movie part, in 1985's Desert Bloom. From 1986 to 1993, she made eight films, including the fanciful Mystic Pizza.

Even though she's well established in Hollywood, Gish says she often thinks of Iowa. "I miss the summers the most. There's so much open land there, and everything is so clean. I was talking with my former high school boyfriend recently (former Nebraska football player Trev Alberts, a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts**). And we were both agreeing that we miss Iowa.

Peaceful Place to Live.

"Here in California, there's everything from earthquakes to mudslides, but when I think of Iowa, I think of a peaceful place to live."

But Hollywood does have the work. Gish says she decided to do Scarlett because so many well-known people are involved. She views the eight-hour miniseries as a quality production and thinks that it will become part of cinematic television history.

As for demure Anne Hampton, there is an intriguing side to her as well. "She's not so innocent that she doesn't rebel against the Charleston social scene to marry Rhett, who had a deservedly awful reputation."

And she stands up to Scarlett. Anne tells the fiery ex-wife that she loves Rhett. So there! She seems to be a devoted mate, and Rhett is truly grief-stricken when Anne dies. But Scarlett is waiting in the wings to soothe him - after all, this is TV fantasy.
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