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19 October 1908
Hackney, London, England
|Died||17 March 2003 (aged 94)|
|Occupation||Actor, disc jockey, radio presenter|
|Spouse(s)||Pearl Rebuck (1941–2003, his death)|
|Children||Brian and Linda|
Alan Keith, OBE (born Alexander Kossoff; 19 October 1908 – 17 March 2003) was a British actor, disc jockey and radio presenter, noted for being the longest serving and oldest presenter on British radio by the time of his death aged 94.
Alexander "Alec" Kossoff was born in Hackney, London, the eldest of three children of Russian-Jewish parents. He was educated at Dame Alice Owen's School in Islington, and in 1926 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he anglicised his name to Alan Keith. He graduated in 1928 with the silver medal, and spent the next eight years on the West End and Broadway stage.
By 1935, Alan Keith was already an established voice on BBC radio, appearing in dozens of radio plays as a member of the drama stock company and spending three years as an interviewer for In Town Tonight. He also acted in films, appearing in Dangerous Moonlight (1941), The World Owes Me a Living (1945), The Long Knife (1958) and Yesterday's Enemy (1959). In pre-war television broadcasts, he discovered he had a facility with American accents, and he continued to play American characters on television and radio through the 1940s and 1950s.
Your Hundred Best Tunes
Beginning in the early 1950s, he devoted time to devising and presenting music programmes for the BBC. In 1959, he devised Your Hundred Best Tunes, a programme of famous classical music, operetta and ballads. Keith chose the original 100 pieces himself. Many works were suggested by listeners and played in the programme. Thus a good many more than 100 works were played and the list evolved. Therefore, in subsequent years, a 100 Best were periodically voted for by listeners. Keith was awarded an OBE in 1991 for services to broadcasting. In early March 2003, at the age of 94, he recorded an announcement that he intended to retire from the programme after 44 years. However, he fell ill almost immediately afterwards, and died soon after; his final programme was broadcast 12 days after his death.
In the mid-1960s Keith's "wild" and beautiful teenaged daughter, Linda Keith, became well connected culturally in the early days of "Swinging London". She was photographed by David Bailey and, together with Shiela Klein, partner of the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Oldham, was at the heart of a bohemian community in London's West Hampstead. She formed relationships with Keith Richards of the Stones and, later in New York, Jimi Hendrix, but drifted into drug dependency. Richards appears to have been instrumental in Alan Keith's going out to America to find his daughter. On their return she was made a ward of court. She later brought up her own family and, in 2010, was living in New Orleans. According to Richards, Linda Keith was the subject of the Rolling Stones song "Ruby Tuesday". The song includes the lyrics "[w]hen you change with every new day / Still I'm gonna miss you".
- The Avenging Hand (1936) - Receptionist (uncredited)
- Dangerous Moonlight (1941) - (uncredited)
- Give Us the Moon (1944) - Raphael
- The World Owes Me a Living (1945) - Flying circus manager (uncredited)
- The Long Knife (1958) - Dr. Ian Probus
- Yesterday's Enemy (1959) - Bendish (uncredited)
- 80,000 Suspects (1963) - Health Inspector Sanders (uncredited)
- "Variety Club - Jewish Chronicle colour supplement "350 years"". The Jewish Chronicle. 15 December 2006. pp. 28–29.
- Daily Telegraph obituary, 19 March 2003
- Who's Who (1992 and annually); Whitaker's Almanack, annually
- Anthony Barnes (19 March 2003), "Keith; The radio broadcaster who brought the best tunes to the nation over six decades", The Herald; Guardian obituary, 19 March 2003
- Keith Richards (2010) Life