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Unkempt, rough and tough looking members of the gang, or lynch mob, or vigilantes, or posse riders, or cow herders. They had minimal or no dialog, not much screen time, and were generally not listed in the film credits. Some would show up as a face in the crowd, portraying townspeople, barflys, deputies, wagon drivers, ranch hands, etc. We tend to recognize some of their faces, but have no clue as to their real names.


'Curley' Dresden

Real name:
Albert James Dresden

1899 - 1953

(In the photo right, that's Ray Jones peering over Curley's left shoulder.)


Special thanks to:
Marilyn Rak - her grandmother was Curley's sister Frances.
Susan Hubeny - her grandfather was Frank Dresden, Curley's brother.
Lauran Burrell - her grandmother was Curley's sister, Rosalie Anne.

Curley Dresden was a familiar gang member in scores of westerns. His Hollywood career lasted fifteen+ years, from the late 1920s through the mid 1940s. However, there are marriage records for Curley which indicate he was a motion picture actor working in silent films in the early 1920s.

The earliest tradezine mention that I found on Curley had him in the cast of THE DOUBLE REWARD (Rogell-Halperin Prod/Western Pictures, 1922) which starred Bob Reeves. And in the "Chatter" section in the March 25, 1936 issue of the Variety tradepaper: "Curley Dresden hit by flying missile during filming of war scenes at 20th-Fox." (The film is probably Howard Hawks' THE ROAD TO GLORY (20th Century Fox, 1936) which starred Fredric March and Warner Baxter.)

Les Adams has Dresden identified in about 160 sound films and of these, 137 are westerns and 16 are serials. Most of his film appearances were unbilled/uncredited and he often played a henchman, but also essayed background roles such as a townsman, rustler, posse rider, barfly, etc. The years 1937-1943 were a very busy period for Curley. But his workload slows in 1944 followed by only a couple films in 1945-1946. After that, he disappears from Hollywood.

Albert James Dresden was born on July 17, 1899 in Chicago, Illinois. His parents were Anna and Franz Dresden who were both from Germany. Note that the spelling of the family name is Dresden with an "S", not Drezden with a "Z". In addition to Curley, there were two brothers and two sisters, and father Franz/Frank passed away circa 1910.

James Albert 'Curley' Dresden lived at the Norland Hotel in Spokane, Washington. He was hospitalized for over two weeks and passed away on June 7, 1953 at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington from acute liver failure due to cirrhosis of the liver.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has film appearance information on Curley Dresden:

The Google newspaper archive has articles on the Norland Hotel in the Spokane (Washington) Daily Chronicle. It was an inexpensive (cheap) hotel for single men. It closed in 1973 and was demolished in 1976. The second link has a photo showing the small size of the rooms:,1062492&dq=norland-hotel&hl=en,1541605&dq=norland-hotel&hl=en

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), death certificate and Newspaper Archive (subscription) have information on Curley Dresden:

Find A Grave confirms that Curley Dresden is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Spokane, Washington:

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Smith Ballew, Frank Ellis (masked), Armand Wright, Evelyn Daw and Curley Dresden (with his arms in the air) in PANAMINT'S BAD MAN (1938), Ballew's last starring western.

(Courtesy of Bart Romans)

From L-to-R are Curley Dresden (sans moustache), John Wayne and Olin Francis in a scene from PALS OF THE SADDLE (Republic, 1938), one of the Three Mesquiteers series.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

From L-to-R are Curley Dresden, John Wayne and Olin Francis in another production still from the Three Mesquiteers adventure PALS OF THE SADDLE (Republic, 1938).

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from L-to-R are John Merton, Dave 'Tex' O'Brien, Buster Crabbe (seated), Lynton Brent and Curley Dresden in a lobby card from SHERIFF OF SAGE VALLEY (1942), one of the entries in Crabbe's long running series at PRC during the 1940s. Crabbe had a dual role in this oater, and "the other Crabbe" is facing him on the far left.

(Courtesy of John White)

Above from left to right are Curley Dresden, Jess Cavin, Carl Mathews, Jimmy Aubrey and Dan White in a scene from the Buster Crabbe VALLEY OF VENGEANCE (PRC, 1944). Aubrey, Cavin and White are settlers, while Dresden and Mathews play gang members employed by Lynton Brent and Jack Ingram. All five in this photo are unbilled. This was one of Dresden's last film appearances.

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