Cooke, Alistair

Cooke, Alistair,

1908–2004, Anglo-American journalist, b. Salford, England, as Alfred Cooke; grad. Cambridge, 1930, where he officially adopted the name Alistair. Cooke became famous in Britain for interpreting American life and culture to a British audience and in America, as the epitome of the elegantly urbane English gentleman, for hosting several popular television programs. He did postgraduate studies at Yale and Harvard (1932–34) and in summer traveled throughout the country. Returning to England (1934), he worked in radio as a British Broadcasting Corp. film critic and the National Broadcasting Co.'s London correspondent. Back (1937) in the United States as a BBC commentator and a writer for the London Times, he settled in New York City and became (1941) an American citizen.

As a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian (1945–73), Cooke also became known for his long-running weekly BBC broadcast, Letter from America (1946–2004). His U.S. reputation and visibility soared when he hosted commercial television's pioneering cultural magazine Omnibus (1952–61), the BBC's historical series America (1972–73), and public television's Masterpiece Theater (1971–1992). His numerous books include biographies, adaptations of his Letters pieces, Generation on Trial: U.S.A. v. Alger Hiss (1950), the best seller Alistair Cooke's America (1973; adapted from the series), and America Observed (1988).


See his The American Home Front, 1941–1942 (2006); biography by N. Clarke (2000).

Cooke, (Alfred) Alistair

(1906–  ) journalist, television host; born in Manchester, England. After studying at Yale, he was naturalized in 1941, broadcasting Letter from America for British Broadcasting Corporation Radio, also writing for The Guardian (1948–72). Urbane host of the cultural television magazine Omnibus (1952–60), he created the National Broadcasting Company series America: A Personal History of the United States in the 1970s. He hosted Public Broadcasting System's Masterpiece Theatre (1971–92) and became such a fixture on television that he was often the subject of genial parodies.