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What the Deaf Man Heard (1997)

TV Movie  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  23 November 1997 (USA)
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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

Plot Keywords:

based on novel | See All (1) »


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

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

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 »


Tallasse Tynan: [at the bonfire, trying to get the reporters to stop bothering Sammy] Hi!
TV Reporter: Well! Someone who can talk. What's your name?
Tallasse Tynan: Uh, Joan of Arc. I love bonfires!
TV Reporter: I see you have some Dickie Devil records, for the blaze no doubt.
Tallasse Tynan: Oh, no. These are some Frank Sinatra albums of my mother's that I've been longing to incinerate for a while.
See more »


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

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User Reviews

Another Fabulous Hallmark Movie!
19 August 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw this on TV one night and fell in love. Matthew Modine plays Sammy Ayers(the adult) who as a child is left alone on a bus after his mother is murdered. He arrives in a small Georgia town and sits quietly all day waiting for his mother arrive. The people in town then determine that he's deaf and mute. As an adult he does odd jobs for all the people in town, all the while listening to everything everyone tells him, including secrets! Jake Weber plays Tolliver Tynan, Tallasses(Sammys love interest)brother and the source of all Sammys trouble. Tom Skerritt stars as Norm, owner of the bus depot and a sort of father figure to Sammy. James Earl Jones also stars as Archibald Thacker, a rum runner who knows a thing or two about some of the secrets in the town. As one of the big secrets threatens the town Sammy struggles with what to do. A great story and wonderful acting make this a movie I would recommend to anyone.

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