Marlee Beth Matlin (born August 24, 1965) is an American actress who is deaf. She is the youngest woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, which she won at the age of 21.
Matlin was born in Morton Grove, Illinois, to Libby and Donald Matlin, an automobile dealer. She lost all hearing in her right ear, and 80% of hearing in her left ear at the age of eighteen months. She was raised in a Jewish family. Matlin graduated from John Hersey High School in nearby Arlington Heights and attended Harper College.
Matlin made her stage debut at the age of seven, as Dorothy in a children's theatre (ICODA) version of The Wizard of Oz, and continued to appear with the ICODA children's theatre group throughout her childhood. Her discovery by Henry Winkler during one of her ICODA theater performances ultimately led to her film debut in Children of a Lesser God.
Her film debut, 1986's Children of a Lesser God, brought her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama and an Academy Award for Best Actress. She is one of the few actors to win an Oscar for their debut performance, and as of 2009, still holds the record for youngest winner in the Best Actress Oscar category.