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Marlee Matlin ( 1965 - )  Category ( Actor_Actress ) [suggest a correction]

Marlee Matlin lost all hearing in her right ear and 80 percent of the hearing in her left ear at the age of 18 months. Ultimately, all that meant was that she couldn't hear the praise that her acting ability eventually brought her.

Despite her hearing loss, Matlin attended and graduated from John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, IL, and later attended Harper College to study criminal justice.

By then, she had already experienced the thrill of being onstage, beginning with the plum role of Dorothy (at age seven) in a children's theater presentation of "The Wizard of Oz."

"I have always resisted putting limitations on myself, both professionally and personally," Matlin has said.

Her acting continued, and she received strong reviews for her performance as Sarah Norman, a deaf student who falls in love with her speech teacher, in the play "Children of a Lesser God." In 1986, after having been noticed by Henry Winkler, she was cast in the same role, opposite William Hurt, in the movie made from the play.

It turned out to be a film debut for the ages. Not only did Matlin won a Golden Globe Award for best actress in a drama, but she became, at 21, the youngest ever to capture an Academy Award for Best Actress. Meanwhile, she and Hurt had a relationship off screen.

Although Matlin never recreated that out-of-the-gate success, she did carve out a productive career in movies and television. Her credits included recurring roles in "The West Wing," and "Reasonable Doubt," and she was nominated for an Emmy for a guest appearance on "Picket Fences."

Matlin also starred in Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story, a movie for Lifetime Television in which she was nominated for a CableACE Award for Best Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series.

"Marlee broke down yet another barrier with the role, playing a character who was not deaf. 'This role gave me the chance to do something I'd never done before," Matlin said. 'It was a new challenge for me and was a very rewarding experience.'"

Not surprisingly, Matlin has evolved into a high-profile champion for the deaf community. She became the national spokesperson for TV Closed Captioning, testifying at a Congressional hearing in 1995 and helping to get a law in place requiring all TV sets larger than 13 in inches to be manufactured with built-in chips to provide that captioning for the deaf.

The mother of four with husband Kevin Grandalski (a Burbank police officer), Matlin has also involved herself in a number of charitable organizations focusing on children's issues, including the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. She received an honorary doctorate from Gallaudet University in 1987, and currently serves on that school's board of trustees.

Matlin has written two novels and a memoir, and even competed in "Dancing With the Stars" in 2008, lasting until the sixth round.

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