When someone rejects the Nobel Prize in Literature, as Sartre did on this day in 1964, I'm reminded of the last scene of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler after she has committed suicide: "People say things like that. People don't do things like that." But then what else can you expect from an existentialist philosopher who wrote Being and Nothingness, No Exit, What is Literature?, and reminded us that "You can always say No." Here he explains why he said No to a prize coveted by so many others.
And as long as we're talking existentialism, why not revisit this stunning performance of the ultimate existential soliloquy, Hamlet's "To be or not to be, by Derek Jacobi, born this day in 1938.
Also born this day was Dr. Timothy Leary, who was fired from Harvard University in the 1960's for taking LSD and giving it to some of his students. Neither he nor the horrid interviewer in this next clip come off very well, nor does Art Linkletter, whose daughter committed suicide after taking drugs, but it gives some idea of the controversy Leary generated during his lifetime (1920-1996) If you're interested in a more balanced account of what happened at Harvard, you can find Andrew Weil's 1963 Look Magazine article here.
Fortunately, today is also the birthday of composer, Franz Liszt, whose virtuosity as a performer and composer established him as one of the greats. Here is Vladimir Horowitz in a performance of the Liszt Consolation No. 3. It seems sorely needed after that Leary interview above.
And finally for today, the lovely Catherine Deneuve. Born this day 70 years ago, she seems more beautiful than ever. Here she is in a December 2012 interview with Charlie Rose on the occasion of the retrospective honoring her career in film.