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B Entries
Barbara Bain
Gene Barry
Wesley E. Barry
Paul Birch
Whit Bissell
Bill Bixby
Jerome Bixby
Chesley Bonestell
Peter Boyle
Ray Bradbury
Adrien Brody
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BIRCH, PAUL
(1912–1969). American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Bonzo Goes to College (Frederick De Cordova 1952); The War of the Worlds (Byron HASKIN 1953); "Conversation with an Ape," "The Strange People at Pecos"(1955), "Survival in Box Canyon" (1956), episodes of Science Fiction Theater; The Day the World Ended (Roger CORMAN 1955); Not of This Earth (Corman 1956); The Beast with a Million Eyes (David Kramarsky 1956); The 27th Day (William Asher 1957); Queen of Outer Space (Edward BERNDS 1958); It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Stanley Kramer 1963).
 
If one made an objective assessment of his entire career, Paul Birch would have to be dismissed as an undistinguished journeyman who mostly played sheriffs and other supporting roles in scores of film and television westerns in the 1950s and 1960s. However, for a brief period in the 1950s, he served as a leading player in Roger CORMAN's stock company of cheap unknowns, and therein he unexpectedly distinguished himself as the thinking man in non-thinking man's movies. Unlike many other actors in the low-budget science fiction films of that era, Birch took his unanticipated responsibilities quite seriously: almost uniquely, he seemed to have read the entire script and thought about his lines before he uttered them, and almost uniquely, he strained his limited acting ability to the utmost in a doomed effort to make the most ridiculous plots sound plausible. For example, in Queen of Outer Space (outside of Corman's domain), it is his unenviable task as the spaceship's scientist to explain the inexplicable, to make sense out of a completely senseless story. As a film, Queen of Outer Space is virtually unwatchable; but it might be interesting if viewed as a documentary about a perfectly normal man, Birch, trapped in an insane asylum, playing along with the lunatics' absurd games while desperately trying to figure out how to escape.

The high point of his career was surely Corman's Not of This Earth where, with absolutely no help from the film's script or the pathetic special effects, he manages to make his literally blood-thirsty alien seem genuinely strange, and even sympathetic. (Anyone doubting his acting ability is invited to compare the performance of Michael YORK in the risible remake of the film.) One detail in Birch's portrayal stands out: when his alien in disguise turns on a light switch, he does not flick the switch with one finger as most people do, but surrounds the switch with two extended fingers and moves the switch up or down. Such attention to small gestures was undoubtedly beyond the frenetic direction of Corman; rather, the business must be attributed to Birch, a small but telling way to suggest his character's alien nature. (After all, an alien just arrived on Earth would not know, among many other things, the proper way to turn on a light switch.) He was less noteworthy in fatherly roles that demanded the projection of warmth, failing to impress anyone as the father of the family who destroys a monster with love in The Beast with a Million Eyes, or as the leader of a small band trying to survive a nuclear holocaust in The Day the World Ended. He also made three appearances on Science Fiction Theater, once playing his signature role as a sheriff (in "Survival in Box Canyon").

Elsewhere, filmographies insist that he was lurking somewhere in the background of films such as The War of the Worlds, The 27th Day, and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but he must have been given little to do, and he must have done it with no particular skill. However, whenever filmmakers were desperate enough to make this spear-carrier the center of attention, they were sometimes surprised to observe Paul Birch more than capably rise to the occasion.

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