August 24 – Happy Birthday, Marlee Matlin!

Posted August 24, 2013

Marlee Matlin is an accomplished actress and author who just happens to be deaf.

She is the first and so far only deaf performer ever to win an Academy Award—and she won THE biggie: Best Actress in a Leading Role. She is also the youngest woman ever to win this coveted Best Actress/leading role Oscar! 

(I know, it seems like  Jennifer Lawrence would have been the youngest—but Lawrence was 22 when she won in 2013, and Matlin was only 21 when she won in 1987!) 

Matlin has also won a Golden Globe and several nominations for Golden Globes Emmys.

In her Oscar-winning role, Matlin's deafness was an important part of the story. The movie Children of a Lesser God is about two employees of a school for the deaf. Matlin played a deaf janitor who falls for a hearing speech teacher (who also falls for her); their romance is made difficult by their different feelings about deafness and speech. When Matlin won the Oscar for this role, she gave her acceptance speech in sign, with an interpreter giving voice to her heartfelt words.

Ironically, Matlin's Oscar win led to a controversy that is similar to the tension between deafness and speech in that movie. As is the custom for Best Actress winners, Matlin was asked to present the Best Actor award at the next year's Oscars. Some deaf people were devastated that, after signing her introductory remarks, Matlin spoke all the names of the nominees and the name of the winner. I suppose that those who were disappointed thought that their one chance to have an entire presentation in sign language was snatched away. On the other hand, I thought it was brave for Matlin to voice the nominees's names

Since the age of 18 months, Matlin has had only 20% hearing in one ear and no hearing in her other ear. Although she contributes her time and effort to the National Association of the Deaf and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, Matlin does not put herself into a box labeled “deaf.” She has played many different sorts of roles, including an expert pollster in the acclaimed TV drama West Wing and an assistant D.A. in Reasonable Doubts. She has written books, worked with charities such as Easter Seals, married a police officer, and had and raised four lovely (hearing) children.

Does it surprise you to know that Marlee Matlin also danced in front of millions of people in the show “Dancing with the Stars”? (Remember, she can hear a little bit, and all deaf people can feel strong beats as vibrations, especially through the floor.)

To the right is a picture of Matlin with her star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Also on this date:

Plan ahead:

Here are my Pinterest pages on August holidayshistorical anniversaries in August, and August birthdays.

1 comment:

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