Initially hired for two years, Alistair Cooke stayed as host of Masterpiece Theatre for 21 years. View archival video footage capturing his first and last appearances on the series.
"Alistair started doing the Masterpiece intros before there were TelePrompTers. He would write his introductions on his manual typewriter, fly to Boston, come into the studio, and we sort of cordoned off an area where he could work, and you would see smoke coming from this corner of the studios. Then he would come out having committed about four minutes of material to memory. He would do the introduction, completely one take by memory, and then erase that from his brain and go do another four.
"I think the reason Alistair loved doing the introductions so much was that it was finally a chance for him to be an actor and he was actually acting as a television presenter and a very dignified, erudite man, which he was, but it was also a little bit of a performance. And I think that was a lot of the attraction. Alistair was the glue, he was the organizing principle, and he became the signature of Masterpiece Theatre. I am sure that after a few years, as many people were tuning in to see him and to see what he had to say as were coming to see the show. And he became, I would say, sort of the rock star of our audience."