Alexander Woollcott, in full Alexander Humphreys Woollcott, (born January 19, 1887, Phalanx, New Jersey, U.S.—died January 23, 1943, New York City, New York), American author, critic, and actor known for his acerbic wit. A large, portly man, he was the self-appointed leader of the Algonquin Round Table, an informal luncheon club at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s and ’30s.
Woollcott, when, on January 23, 1943, he appeared on his last radio broadcast,as a participant in a Writers’ War Board panel discussion on the CBS Radio program The People’s Platform. Marking the tenth anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, the topic was “Is Germany Incurable?” Panelists included Woollcott, Hunter College president George Shuster, Brooklyn College president Henry Gideonse, and novelists Rex Stout and Marcia Davenport. The program’s format began as a dinner party in the studio’s private dining room, with the microphones in place. Table talk would lead into a live network radio broadcast, and each panelist would begin with a provocative response to the topic. “The German people are just as responsible for Hitler as the people of Chicago are for the Chicago Tribune,” Woollcott stated emphatically, and the panelists noted Woollcott’s physical distress.Ten minutes into the broadcast, Woollcott commented that he was feeling ill, but continued his remarks. “It’s a fallacy to think that Hitler was the cause of the world’s present woes,” he said. Woollcott continued, adding “Germany was the cause of Hitler.” He said nothing further. The radio audience was unaware that Woollcott had suffered a heart attack. He died at New York’s Roosevelt Hospital a few hours later, aged 56,of a cerebral hemorrhage.
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