Arriving in a new town, a child pretends to be deaf-mute to protect himself - a ruse which works so well that for twenty years he is custodian to all the town's secrets.



(novel), (teleplay)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sammy Ayers
Mrs. Tynan
Archibald Thacker
Reverend Perry Ray Pruitt
Helen Ayers
Norm Jenkins
Anne Bobby ...
Tallasse Tynan
Tolliver Tynan
Young Sammy
Tyler Noyes ...
Young Tolliver
Teagle F. Bougere ...
Abraham Thacker


In 1945, a young boy arrives in a small Georgia town on a bus from which his mother was abducted and murdered. Alone he sits quietly and everyone becomes convinced that he is deaf and mute. Deciding that silence offers some power and protection, the boy decides to remain mute and just listens to all that is being said around him by people who think that he cannot hear. Written by John Sacksteder <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


For twenty years, he lived in silence. Now his heart needs to speak the truth.


Comedy | Drama





Release Date:

23 November 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hallmark Hall of Fame: What the Deaf Man Heard (#47.1)  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The musical leitmotif heard throughout the film is "My Ship," composed by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill. At the end of the film it is sung by Bernadette Peters, who plays Helen Ayers at the beginning of the film. See more »


Norm Jenkins finds Sammy's suitcase and learns his identity but doesn't tell anyone about the suitcase. Yet the entire town knew and used his full name, presumably starting soon after his first day in Barrington, and the police never searched for his mother after that first day even though his name was known. See more »


Sammy Ayers: [to Norm Jenkins] From time to time... I thought if ever I could pick out a father, it might be somebody pretty close to being like you. Not exactly. Close.
See more »


Edited into Hallmark Hall of Fame (1951) See more »

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User Reviews

I taped 'What the Deaf Man Heard' one night when it was on late.
22 February 2000 | by (Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada) – See all my reviews

I taped ' What the Deaf Man Heard' on night when it was on late, a few days later, I watched it and found it to be an EXTREMELY good movie, which I have yet to date, taped over. It is a really good watch, and Matthew Modine is a really good actor, I recommend it to anyone.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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