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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 20 November 1908Salford, Lancashire, England, UK
Date of Death 30 March 2004New York City, New York, USA  (lung and bone cancer)
Birth NameAlfred Alistair Cooke

Mini Bio (1)

British-born American journalist and broadcaster. Cooke was born in Salford, Manchester: his father was an iron-fitter and Methodist lay-preacher. He grew up in Blackpool where his parents ran a guest house. Here he first came into contact with Americans, in the form of GIs on their way to fight in World War One. He won a scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he studied English. A fellowship from the Commonwealth Fund subsequently enabled him to study theatre at Yale and Harvard for two years. In 1934 he got his first broadcasting job, as a film critic for the BBC, but soon returned to the States and in 1941 became a US citizen. For a time he worked as a freelance journalist for The Times, reporting from New York. Then in 1945 he joined The Guardian as its US correspondent, a position he held until 1972. His first job was to cover the creation of the United Nations. In March 1946 he began a radio programme for the BBC called "American Letter". This was a series of 15-minute broadcasts in which he tried to give an impression of life in America. Cooke was warned by the producer that this would last no longer than 26 weeks: in the event, as "Letter from America", it lasted for 58 years, becoming the world's longest-running speech radio programme. Cooke made in total 2869 broadcasts, mostly from his 15th-floor flat on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. Memorable broadcasts included his eyewitness account of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. He also broadcast on American TV, presenting "Omnibus" in the 1950s and from 1971 to 1993 presenting British programmes to American viewers for PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre" series. A much-respected figure on both sides of the Atlantic, he was granted an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, and addressed Congress as part of the bicentennial celebrations. At the age of 95, having been forced to miss a broadcast due to his increasing ill-health, Cooke decided to end "Letter from America" (having in the past made 16 broadcasts from a hospital bed). The last programme was transmitted on 2nd March 2004 and he died less than a month later.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Peter Brynmor Roberts

Spouse (2)

Jane White Hawkes (30 April 1946 - 30 March 2004) (his death) (1 child)
Ruth Emerson (24 August 1934 - 1944) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (14)

His "Letter From America" radio broadcast to the UK (and the world via the BBC World Service) ran from 1946-2004 making it the world's longest running speech radio show (58 years).
Became a U.S. Citizen in 1941.
He retired at the age of 95 years in 2004 due to failing health.
A naturalised US citizen, he was awarded an honorary knighthood in 1973.
His "Letter from America" began its thirteen week run on 24 March 1946. It ended after 2869 letters in March 2004, weeks before Cooke's death.
Cooke worked as a personal assistant to Charlie Chaplin (the Little Tramp) on a projected film about the life of Napoleon. Chaplin had been invited to be Best Man at Cooke's wedding to Ruth Emerson, but the bride's mother objected to the film star's living in sin with actress Paulette Goddard.
His first wife, Ruth Emerson, was a model and a great-grandniece of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Their son, John Byrne Cooke, was Janis Joplin's road manager from 1967 until her death.
His second wife, Jane White Hawkes, was a painter and the widow of the son of U.S. Senator Albert W. Hawkes. Their daughter, Susan Cooke Kittredge, is an ordained minister.
A memorial service was held for him at London's Westminster Abbey on 15th October 2004.
Shortly after his death it was discovered that some of his bones had been removed before his body was passed to his family for cremation. Police investigating an illegal trade in bones, used for transplants and sold for thousands of dollars, found that his body was one of many which had been desecrated in the mortuary. His ashes were scattered in New York's Central Park.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 95-97. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
In 1934, Charles Chaplin was scheduled to serve as best man at broadcaster Alistair Cooke's marriage to Ruth Emerson (Ruth Emerson Cooke), but Charlie never showed. Reputedly, he and wife-to-be Paulette Goddard were having such a good time at Southern California's Lake Arrowhead, they decided to stay.
He was spoofed on Sesame Street by Cookie Monster who was Alistair Cookie.
His son was road manager for Janis Joplin and was the one to discover her 18 hours after her fatal heroine overdose.

Personal Quotes (8)

People in America, when listening to radio, like to lean forward. People in Britain like to lean back.
In America the race is on between its decadence and its vitality, and it has plenty of both.
Canned music is like audible wallpaper.
I'm still an Englishman in America. An Irish Lancastrian, really. I don't kid myself that I'm from Arkansas.
As always, the British shudder at the latest American vulgarity, and then embrace it with enthusiasm two years later.
[on Mary Pickford] She was the girl every young man wanted to have -- as his sister.
[on Douglas Fairbanks] Fairbanks' glory, the mystery of his visual imagination, is that he could throw away all the text book tricks on the makeshift apparatus of ordinary life. To Fairbanks the limb of a tree suggests a hocks-off; a narrow lane with high walls is a risky, but workable, set of parallel bars; a spear is a pole to vault with.
[on Greta Garbo] Every man's harmless fantasy mistress. She gave you the impression that, if your imagination had to sin, it could at least congratulate itself on its impeccable taste.

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