Marlee Matlin (Marlee Beth Matlin) is a world renowned actress who overcame her physical disabilities to become a role model for all women across the world. Matlin lost her hearing at the tender age of 18 months due to severe fever and illness. Despite this, she pursued her acting career and went on to win the Academy Award for her role in ‘Children of a Lesser God’ in the year 1987. She also played major and prominent roles in a number of other movies as well as television series, which received positive acclamation. She went on to become the source of inspiration for many women across the world. She is a proud winner of a Golden Globe award along with two nominations. Her notable achievements also include two nominations at the Emmy awards. Being one of the most distinguished members of the National Association of the Deaf, she is a role model to many. She has also used her interpreter Jack Jason for a long time as her aid.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on August 24th, 1965, Matlin grew up in the small town of Morton Grove in Illinois, USA. Her father was the owner of the second-hand car dealership and her mom used to sell jewelry. Her parents had three children and Matlin was the youngest.
When she was only 18 months old, she fell ill because of an unknown disease due to which she lost her hearing ability in the right ear and around 80 percent hearing ability in the left ear. She never regained her hearing ability again and was declared legally deaf for the rest of her life.
Matlin's parents decided to enroll her into the community school instead of sending her to any special school. She started learning about the methods by which she could communicate in sign language by the age of 5, though her parents were not so good in doing so.
Due to the fact that her family hailed from parts of Poland and Russia, she spent her childhood growing up in one of the Reform Jewish households. Matlin used to go to a synagogue which was meant for deaf people (Congregation Bene Shalom). There she used phonetics to study Hebrew and by the time she reached the age of Bat Mitzvah, she had learnt her Torah very well.
During her childhood, Matlin tasted her first experience of acting in a program which was organized by the Center on Deafness where deaf as well as hearing students were brought together. She got her first big break when she got to play the role of Dorothy in the play called ‘The Wizard of Oz’ which was done by the children's theater company located in Chicago.
Matlin carried on her acting career into her adult life with lots of zeal and vigor. During the same period, she also earned an educational degree in the field of law enforcement from the renowned Harper College.
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Matlin had to develop her acting skills for several years at the various theaters of Chicago before she got her first big break on the silver screen. She was discovered by Henry Winkler while she was acting in one of the plays of children’s theater at the International Center on Deafness and the Arts (CODA).
She got her break in a movie called the ‘Children of a Lesser God’ which was released in the year 1986 for which she got acclaim. She won the Golden Globe Award for the Best Actress in a Drama category as well as the much-coveted Academy Award in the Best Actress category.
One of her notable roles was in the movies ‘Bridge to Silence’ which was released in the year 1989. In this movie, Matlin played the role of a deaf widow and even had some spoken dialogues in addition to using sign language. For her role in the popular television series ‘Reasonable Doubts’, she had received a Golden Globe Award nomination. She was also nominated for an Emmy Award for her appearance in the series called Picket Fences, where she appeared regularly.
Away from acting, Matlin is an accomplished author as well. In the year 2002, she published very first novel ‘Deaf Child Crossing’, which was based on her childhood. Later on, she wrote a book which was the sequel to her first novel, which was titled ‘Nobody's Perfect’. This novel was also performed on stage at the famous John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in the year 2007.
Matlin carried on writing all throughout her career and in the year 2009, she published her autobiography, ‘I'll Scream Later’. In this book, she described her childhood and her acting career along with all the hardships and exploitations she faced as a deaf person.
Awards & Achievements
Marlee Matlin was the winner of the Academy Award in the Best Actress category for her role in her debut movie, a romantic drama named ‘Children of a Lesser God’. For the same role, she also received a Golden Globe Award in the Best Actress category in the year 1986.
Since her Academy awards and Golden Globe triumph, Matlin has also received a number of nominations and awards for various works. These nominations include two Golden Globe award nominations as well as four Emmy Award nominations which she got for the numerous appearances in various television series.
She received the much-coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the year 2009 for her contribution to the American movie and television industry.
She also received the honorable national Jefferson Award for her commitment towards the society in the year 1988.
In the year of 1987, she was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the Gallaudet University, which is a private university which mainly focuses on educating all the deaf people living in the society.
Personal Life & Legacy
Being an active member of numerous charitable organizations, Matlin promotes social welfare. She is one the most accomplished members of Easter Seals (she has received the honor of being a Board Member), the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, VSA arts, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation as well as the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet. President Clinton appointed her as the member of the Corporation for National Service in the year 1994, where she played the role of the chairperson of the National Volunteer Week.
In a television ad campaign which was aimed at raising donations for the various Jewish foundations, Matlin was one of the most famous and world renowned artists. Along with her, there were numerous renowned artists such Joshua Malina, Greg Grunberg, Kevin Weisman as well as Jonathan Silverman.
In her biography, she vividly explained the period of her life when she was a drug addict and how it forced her to check herself into the Betty Ford. She also described her relationship which lasted for two years with fellow actor William Hurt whom she affectionately used to call Rocky. The amount of physical abuse she endured in that relationship along with the extensive amounts of drugs she used to hide her pain is described in the book in great detail. She also described two situations in her life, when she endured sexual abuse as a child, once by a babysitter and once by a high school teacher.
Matlin got hitched with a police officer named Kevin Grandalski in the year 1993. Their marriage ceremony was held five days after her 28th birthday at the residence of a fellow actor named Henry Winkler. The couple has four beautiful children named Sarah, Brandon, Tyler and lastly Isabelle.
Originally it was believed that Matlin was deaf since her childhood due to the fact that she suffered from roseolainfantum. But when she grew up, doctors were able to discover that her deafness was mainly because she was suffering from genetically malformed cochlea.
Since the age of 18 months, Matlin has permanently lost the power to hear anything. She has completely lost her hearing power in her right ear. In her left ear, she is 80 percent deaf making her legally deaf.