ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library

Marlee Matlin
Also See "Marlee Matlin (2)"

Mallaidh Mleziva
June 9, 2014

Marlee Matlin

Marlee Beth Matlin was born on August 24, 1965 in Morton Grove, Illinois. When she was 18 months old, she lost all of her hearing in her right ear and 80% in her left ear. One of her earliest hobbies was acting. Being involved in a children's theater company won her the role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz." She went on to graduate from John Hersey High School and Harper College, where she majored in criminal justice. However, Marlee's heart still belonged to acting. Marlee's first movie was "Children of a Lesser God." This film launched her very successful acting career, winning her an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the young age of twenty-one, setting the record for the youngest woman to ever win that award (Haisch, 2014).

Marlee continued on to play various characters in many movies, including "Walker," "Hear No Evil," and "What the Bleep Do We Know!?." She also appeared in television shows, some of the most popular being "Seinfeld," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Desperate Housewives," and "My Name is Earl." On other shows, including "Reasonable Doubts," "Picket Fences," "The L Word," and "Switched at Birth," her characters were recurring, the last of which Marlee is particularly fond of. "Switched at Birth" depicts the lives of two girls that were mixed up in the hospital. One of the daughters, Daphne, became deaf at a young age. Marlee plays the mother of Daphne's very close friend. The show reveals the beautiful Deaf Culture and American Sign Language but also the struggles faced by the Deaf. Marlee is very happy with this series because there is a great mix of hearing and Deaf actors, ASL is used, and closed captioning is available throughout all of the shows and promos (Mendoza, 2011).

Marlee has guest starred on "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Dancing With the Stars." On "Celebrity Apprentice" Marlee raised over a million dollars for the Starkey Hearing Foundation, an organization which assists those with hearing loss both domestically in America and on other continents (Global Missions, 2013). She is involved with many different charitable organizations for children, serving on the boards of Very Special Arts, the Starlight Foundation, and others.

The National Captioning Institute is another organization in which Marlee plays an essential role. She is a spokeswoman for it and aided in getting a law passed that states that televisions thirteen inches or larger must come with the ability of closed captioning. This was a tremendous accomplishment for the Deaf population. Marlee also spoke at  Authors@Google where she thanked the Google staff for all their hard work of enabling closed captioning on the internet (Talks at Google, 2010).  

Marlee is also a producer. "My Deaf Family" is her first show that is available on YouTube. So far, only the "Pilot" has been filmed, but Marlee is eager to produce more episodes. This show is the story of Jared Fils who is a hearing son in a deaf family (MyDeafFamily, 2010). Marlee's first attempt at professional producing was "Where the Truth Lies" (1999) which was a film that she also starred in.

Away from the screen, Marlee is also an author. Her most famous book is I'll Scream Later, her autobiography. She has also written Deaf Child Crossing, Leading Ladies, Nobody's Perfect, and several children's books. Although her current life involves acting and raising four children with her husband, Marlee's life was not always so picturesque. I'll Scream Later reveals Marlee's early life as a child and young adult. When she was only eleven she was molested by her babysitter. Again at the age of fifteen, she was molested by a teacher. Also during this timeframe, drug addiction entered her life. She began used drugs at thirteen years old. Farther down the road, when she auditioned for "Children of a Lesser God," she met actor, William Hurt, and began a relationship with him. In this book, Marlee tells how the relationship became abusive. This occurred when she was only nineteen years old. At twenty-one, she was still addicted to drugs, and thus entered herself into the Betty Ford Clinic. In I'll Scream Later, Marlee says that William Hurt encouraged her to go to rehab. It was at this time that they went their separate ways. William Hurt never apologized or admitted to any abusive relationship with Marlee. Marlee says today that she would forgive him if he asked but she would not forget (Tendick, 2009).  

While Marlee was in rehab, she got the call that she was nominated for the Academy Award. The press asked Marlee for a statement, but she did not want anyone to know that she was in rehab. She simply replied, "I'll scream later." This statement later became the title of her autobiography. Marlee has been sober for over twenty-three years. William Hurt was the person that announced the winner of the Academy Award, who was Marlee.

Marlee Matlin is a wife, mother of four, actress, producer, and author. All of her accomplishments and triumphs inspire both the hearing and the Deaf. Her success shows her true talent in a very competitive career. The fact that she is Deaf causes her to be a tremendous role model for those who are also Deaf and an educator to the hearing. Her attitude is bright and cheerful. She is a goal-getter and will fight for what she wants. Marlee did not listen to the people who said she could not be an actress because she was deaf, or to the people that said she won the Academy Award out of pity. One of her famous quotes is, "Silence is the last thing the world will ever hear from me" (Haisch, 2014).  


Chris1983w. (2009, June 16). Marlee Matlin I'll Scream Later' (with English caption). YouTube. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from  


Global Missions. (2013). Starkey Hearing Foundation. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from


Haisch, K. (2014). Marlee Matlin biography. IMDb. Retrieved June 2, 2014, from


IMDb. (n.d.). Where the truth lies (1999). IMDb. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from


Matlin, M. (2014). About Marlee. City Post Media. Retrieved June 2, 2014, from  


Mendoza, G. (2011, August 1). Marlee Matlin visits the KTLA morning news to talk "Switched at Birth" and "Celebrity Apprentice." YouTube. Retrieved June 2, 2014, from


MyDeafFamily. (2010, March 27). My deaf family "Pilot." YouTube. Retrieved June 2, 2014, from


Talks at Google. (2010, April 4). Authors@Google: Marlee Matlin. YouTube. Retrieved June 3, 2014,  from


Tendick, G. (2009, April 14). Marlee Matlin on Larry King Live (subtitles). YouTube. Retrieved June 2, 2014, from  


 Unscripted. (2010, May 3). Marlee Matlin. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from





Melissa Highsmith
Nov. 11, 2001

Marlee Matlin

In 1964 Marlee Matlin was born in Morton Grove, Illinois. She was the daughter of two proud parents, Don and Libby Matlin. When Marlee was eighteen months old she came down with a high fever that caused her to become deaf. At seven Marlee struck a slight interest in the performing arts. Throughout her teenage years she gave acting up. A year into college Marlee picked acting back up. Since her award winning movie she had accomplished numerous movies and television productions. In the process of performing she met her other half; together they had two children. Besides Marlee's acting career she had other accomplishments, for example, a book.
Marlee Matlin was born and raised in Morton Grove, Illinois, a suburb outside of Chicago, and was the third child born to parents Don and Libby Matlin ( Since Don and Liby had suffered a loss of a child, a year before Marlee was born, they felt they were blessed with a healthy daughter ( However, Marlee's health had descended at eighteen months from a fever associated with rosela, a form of german measles ( htm ). Even though Marlee had formed roseola, the illness did not seem to be serious; therefore, the fever had caused Marlee to be permanently deaf in one ear and eighty percent in the other ear ( Marlee's parents and her older brother had learned sign language to be apart of her hearing impaired world ( Don and Liby had also made the decision to sign and speak to her at the same time; Marlee credits her proficiency in lip reading and her speaking ability ( Marlee was also put in a public school so she could be "mainstreamed" with other children that were not deaf ( At the age of seven Marlee had struck an interest in acting.
"I began acting on stage when I was seven years old. My first role was as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at Chicago's Center on Deafness in Northbrook, Ill.," Marlee Matlin stated ( Henry Winker discovered Marlee's magnificent acting skills, at the age of thirteen, in 1977 when Henry attended the Centre for a play ( Since Henry fell in love with her performance he went backstage to talk to Malree about pursuing a career in performing arts ( Even though Malree had taken Henry's advice to heart she was to busy being a teenager, dating, being with friends, and learning to drive a car, to become involved with acting ( After Marlee graduated from Hersey High School in Chicago, Marlee attended William Rainey Harper College for a year (, where she took up acting again and appeared in her first adult stage appearance, in the supporting role of Lydia a stage version of Children of a Lesser God, at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in 1985 ( In 1987 Marlee had received the highest honor award for the film, For Children of a Lesser God, which put her acting career at the top ( At the age of twenty-one, Marlee became the youngest recipient of the best actress Oscar; only four actresses to receive that honor for a debut film performance ( Since then Marlee had appeared in about fifteen movies that included Walker (1987), Bridge to Silence (1989) which appeared on the CBS network, The Man in the Golden Mask (1990) which was only released in France, The Linguini Incident (1991), The Player (1992), Hear No Evil (1993), Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story (1994) a Lifetime original, It's My Party (1996), Dead Silence (1997) which was shown on HBO, When Justice Fails (1998), In Her Defense (1998), Freak City (1999) appeared on Showtime, Where the Truth Lies (1999), she was also the executive producer for this show, a Lifetime movie, and Kiss My Act (2001) which showed on ABC ( Marlee had also appeared in seventeen television programs which included, Reasonable Doubts (1991-1993)on NBC, Seinfeld (1993) also on NBC, Adventures in Wonderland (1993) on the Disney channel, Picket Fences (1993,1994-1996) on CBS, Outer Limits (1995) on Showtime, Sweet Justice (1995) on the NBC network, People in Motion (1996) appeared on PBS, The Larry Sanders Show (1997) on HBO, Spin City (1997) on ABC, Puzzle Place (1998) which was also on PBS, ER (1998) on NBC, Chicken Soup for the Soul (1999) on PAX, Judging Amy (1999) that is showed on CBS, Blues Clues (2000-2001) on Nickelodeon, The Practice (2000) on the ABC station, Gideon's Crossing (2001) appearing on ABC and, The West Wing (2000-2001) showing on NBC ( In the process of performing she had met the guy she was going to spend the rest of her life with.
In 1991 Marlee was performing for NBC's Reasonable Doubts, were she had met a Los Angeles police officer, who was assigned to the NBC's television program ( Since Kevin Grandalski had training in sign language, he was able to ask Marlee out on a date ( After a year and a half of dating Kevin proposed to Marlee; in 1993 Kevin and Marlee got married ( In 1995 Marlee had served as the national spokesperson for VITAC, the largest provider of television closed captioning for the hearing impaired, and was instrumental in getting federal legislation passed to require all televisions be equipped with close captioning technology ( She also served on the boards of a number of charitable organizations including VSA Arts, the Starlight Foundation, and Victory Over Violence ( In 1996 Marlee and Kevin were blessed with a baby girl Sarah Rose (, and in 2000 they were blessed with another child, a baby boy, Brandon Joseph ( In addition, she has just completed a children's novel, Caution: Deaf Child Crossing, which will be published by Simon and Schuster in 2002 ( All it takes to realize that a deaf person can rise to any task is a little awareness and interaction ( Marlee stated "I like to say that the greatest handicap of deafness does not lie in the ear, it lies in the mind." 
In closing, in 1961, Marlee Martin was brought into the world by Don and Libby Matlin were she was born and raised in Morton Grove, Illinois. When Marlee was a toddler, eighteen months old, she came down with an illness that left her deaf. When Marlee reached the age of seven she started to have an interest in acting. As Marlee got into her teens she became less interested in acting and more interested in boys, friends, and cars. When Marlee became a student at William Rainey Harper she began to get the interest of acting again. Marlee received the highest honor for her performance in, For Children of a Lesser God. Since then Marlee has appeared in thirty-two movies and television programs. In the process of performing she met her significant other, Kevin Grandalski. Marlee and Kevin had two children, Sarah and Brandon. Marlee was not only an actress she also was a spokesperson, she served on charity boards, and she even wrote a book. Even though Marlee was deaf, her hearing impairment did not stop her from achieving her goals. 


Baker, Kathy. Lifetime online. Intimate Portrait: Marlee Matlin. Retrieved 11, Nov. 2001: <>

Matlin, Marlee. Marlee online. Biography. Marlee Matlin's Biography. Retrieved 11, Nov. 2001: <>

Matlin, Marlee. Marlee online. Film. Marlee Matlin's Film. Retrieved 11, Nov. 2001: <>

Strauss, Elaine.(1999, Feb. 10). Marlee Matlin's Signs of Success. Retrieved 11, Nov. 2001: <>

Williams, John. (2001, May 23). Buisnessweek Online. Marlee Matlin's World of Possibilities. Associative Technology. Retrieved 11, Nov. 2001:

Marlee Matlin. Retrieved 11, Nov. 2001: <>


*  Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE  (Thanks!)

Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)  

*  Also check out Dr. Bill's channel:

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University  
ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars