Lester Ziffren, a former United Press reporter who was among the first journalists to report the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and whose later career in Hollywood included credits as a screenwriter of Charlie Chan films, has died. He was 101.
Ziffren died of congestive heart failure Nov. 12 at his home in New York City, said his daughter, Didi Hunter.
Born April 30, 1906, in Rock Island, Ill., Ziffren began his reporting career writing golf stories for the local newspaper. He then went to the University of Missouri, earning a degree in journalism in 1927. According to a biography released by his daughter, Ziffren joined United Press when he encountered the president of the news agency at his college graduation dinner. He asked for a job and got one. A year later, he traveled to Buenos Aires and covered South America throughout the late 1920s.
After a stint on the foreign desk of United Press in New York, he was sent to Madrid in 1933 to cover political developments.
He provided nightly broadcast reports for United Press on the run-up to the Spanish Civil War.
In July 1936, he sent a coded message to the New York office reporting that elements of Spain's military stationed in Spanish Morocco had revolted. With support from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, this action signaled the start of a greater military move against the Republican government. By the end of July, rebel forces in the military controlled a third of the country.