Typewriter of the moment: Alistair Cooke for the BBC

June 19, 2009

Alistair Cookes typewriter, displayed at BBC headquarters, Bush House, in London - Photo by Jeff Zycinski

Alistair Cooke's typewriter, displayed at BBC headquarters, Bush House, in London - Photo by Jeff Zycinski

Alas, our students now are too young to remember Alistair Cooke’s hosting of “Masterpiece Theater” on PBS, and of course, back then the BBC America service — if it existed — was available only to shortwave fanatics or people  who traveled a lot to the British Isles.

Perhaps more than anyone else other than Winston Churchill, and maybe the Beatles, Alistair Cooke tied England and America together tightly in the 20th century.  BBC’s other writers are good to brilliant, but even their obituary for Cooke (March 30, 2004) doesn’t quite do him justice:

For more than half a century, Alistair Cooke’s weekly broadcasts of Letter from America for BBC radio monitored the pulse of life in the United States and relayed its strengths and weaknesses to 50 countries.

His retirement from the show earlier this month after 58 years, due to ill health, brought a flood of tributes for his huge contributing to broadcasting.

Perhaps for Cooke, from Cooke’s broadcasts, we could develop a new variation of the Advanced Placement document-based question:  Broadcast-based questions. Heaven knows his Letter From America provided profound material on American history:

BBCs famous broadcaster Alistair Cooke, painted by June Mendoza (copyright Mendoza - www.junemendoza.co.uk)

BBC's famous broadcaster Alistair Cooke, painted by June Mendoza (copyright Mendoza - http://www.junemendoza.co.uk)


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