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In The Big Country Gregory Peck plays a seafaring man who heads west to marry Carroll Baker, the daughter of rancher Charles Bickford. Bickford is currently embroiled in a water-rights feud with covetous Burl Ives, so both he and his daughter are hoping that Peck can take care of himself.
But Peck, who doesn't belief in fisticuffs, appears to be a coward, especially when challenged by Bickford's cocksure foreman Charlton Heston.
The far-from-cowardly Peck decides to distance himself from the machismo overload at the Bickford spread, settling for a romance with headstrong schoolmarm Jean Simmons, whose water-rich lands are being fought over by the two warring ranchers. When Jean is kidnapped by Ives' no-good son Chuck Connors, Peck decides to take action.