Alistair Cooke enjoyed an extraordinary career in print, radio, and television. Born in Salford, England, in 1908 and educated at Cambridge, Yale, and Harvard, he was the BBC’s film critic from 1934 to 1937. He then returned to America and became a U.S. citizen in 1941. Cooke was The Guardian’s Chief American Correspondent for twenty-five years and was the host of groundbreaking cultural programs on American television and of the BBC series America, which was a huge hit and led to the international best-selling book Alistair Cooke’s America. Cooke was made an honorary KBE in 1973 for his outstanding contribution to Anglo-American understanding, and received many other awards, including the Peabody Award, the Dimbleby Award, four Emmy Awards, and the Benjamin Franklin Award. He had a passion for films, jazz, and golf, and was a talented pianist.
Alistair Cooke was, however, best known at home and abroad for his weekly BBC broadcast Letter from America, which reported on fifty-eight years of American life, was heard in more than five continents, and totaled 2,869 broadcasts before his retirement in February 2004. He wrote most of the scripts for Letter from America on an ancient Royal typewriter in his New York apartment overlooking Central Park, where he raised his family and lived with his wife, Jane White, until his death on March 30, 2004.