He won a Commonwealth Fund fellowship and went to the United States in 1932 to study drama at Yale University.

He worked as script writer in Hollywood for a short time before returning to Britain to join the BBC as a film critic.

In 1937 he returned to US and settled in New York. He became a US citizen four years later.

His weekly 15 minute programme Letter from America started in 1946 went on for 58 years to become the world's longest running series on radio. It was a weekly snapshot from America for British and world audiences.

Americans knew him for his weekly show "Omnibus". It is regarded as a masterwork that changed the face of US television in the 1950s. Omnibus won several broadcasting awards. The programme ran till 1961.

Acting like a connection between people on two sides of the Atlantic, from the 1970s Cooke served as an interpreter of British culture for Americans by hosting Masterpiece Theatre, a BBC dramatic-television programming.

"I seem to be perceived in America as a benign old English gentleman and in England as an enlightened American," he once said.

Outstanding commentator

In presenting 2,869 shows, he had missed only three broadcasts. He wrote his letter every week on a typewriter in his flat overlooking New York City's Central Park.

Acting director general of the BBC, Mark Byford, described Cooke as "the outstanding commentator of the 20th century".

"Alistair Cooke was one of the greatest broadcasters ever in the history of the BBC," he said in a statement.

"(His) insight, wisdom and unique ability to craft words enabled millions of listeners in the UK and around the world to understand the texture of the United States and its people.

In 1973, Queen Elizabeth made him an Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire.