Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Alistair Cooke (November 20, 1908 - March 30, 2004) was a journalist and broadcaster. Born in England, he became a naturalized American citizen, and lived in New York City with his family for most of his adult life.
Born in Salford, Greater Manchester, England, as Alfred Cooke, he legally added the name "Alistair" at age 22. He was educated at Blackpool Grammar School and was awarded a scholarship to study at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he gained a first-class honours degree in English. As a graduate student, he went to Yale University and Harvard University in the United States for two years on a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship.
In 1935, back in England, Cooke became a film critic for the BBC and London correspondent for NBC. Each week, he recorded a 15-minute talk for American listeners on life in Britain, under the series title of London Letter.
Shortly after emigrating, Cooke suggested to the BBC the idea of doing the London Letter in reverse: a 15-minute talk for British listeners on life in America. A prototype, Mainly About Manhattan, was broadcast intermittently from 1938, but the idea was shelved with the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The first American Letter was broadcast on March 24, 1946; initially confirmed for only 13 instalments, the series finally came to an end 58 years and 2,869 instalments later in March 2004. Along the way, it picked up a new name (changing from American Letter to Letter From America in 1950) and an enormous audience, being broadcast not only in Britain and in many other Commonwealth countries, but throughout the world by the BBC World Service. In 1991, Alistair Cooke received a special BAFTA silver award for his contribution to Anglo American relations.
In 1947, Cooke became a foreign correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, for which he wrote until 1972. (It was, incidentally, the first time he had been employed as a staff reporter; all his previous work had been freelance.) He has also served as foreign correspondent for The Times.
In 1971, Cooke became the presenter of the new Masterpiece Theatre, PBS's showcase of quality British television. He remained presenter for another 22 years, retiring from the role in 1992. He was a well-known figure in this role, and was the subject of many parodies, including "Alistair Cookie" in Sesame Street’s "Monsterpiece Theater" and, arguably, Leonard Pinth-Garnell in Saturday Night Live’s "Bad Conceptual Theater" etc.
Alistair Cooke's America, a 13-part television series about the United States and its history, was first broadcast in both Britain and the US in 1973, and was followed by a book of the same title. It was a great success in both countries, and resulted in Cooke being invited to address the joint Houses of the United States Congress as part of Congress's bicentennial celebrations. Alistair Cooke said that, of all his work, Alistair Cooke's America was what he was most proud of; it is the result and expression of his long love of America. (Cooke was once asked how long it took him to make the series. "I do not want to be coy," he replied, "but it took 40 years.")
- A Generation on Trial: The USA v. Alger Hiss
- Alistair Cooke's America
- America Observed: From the 1940s to the 1980s/Ronald A. Wells
- Fun & Games with Alistair Cooke: On Sport and Other Amusements
- Letter from America: The Early Years 1946-1968
- Letters from America: The Americans, Letters from America and Talk About America
- Memories of the Great and the Good
- One Man's America
- Six Men
- Talk About America
- The Americans
- The Patient Has the Floor
- Letter From America - official BBC home page
- An interview with Alistair Cooke
- What makes him tick by the BBC's Nick Clarke , author of a biography of Alistair Cooke.
- BBC Obituary
- Guardian Obituary
- Economist Obituary
- Tony Blair gives tribute
- Alistair Cooke from the Open Directory Project
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