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What the Deaf Man Heard (1997)

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.


John Kent Harrison


G.D. Gearino (novel), Robert W. Lenski (teleplay)

On Disc

at Amazon

Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Matthew Modine ... Sammy Ayers
Claire Bloom ... Mrs. Tynan
Judith Ivey ... Lucille
James Earl Jones ... Archibald Thacker
Jerry O'Connell ... Reverend Perry Ray Pruitt
Bernadette Peters ... Helen Ayers
Tom Skerritt ... Norm Jenkins
Anne Bobby ... Tallasse Tynan
Stephen Spinella ... Percy
Jake Weber ... Tolliver Tynan
Frankie Muniz ... Young Sammy
Andy Stahl ... Finis
Tyler Noyes Tyler Noyes ... Young Tolliver
Hallee Hirsh ... Young Tallasse
Teagle F. Bougere 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 <jsackste@bellsouth.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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


Comedy | Drama


PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

23 November 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

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

Filming Locations:

Wilmington, North Carolina, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film holds the record for the highest-rated made-for-television movie on any network since 1991. 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 leaves the town by bus]
Sammy Ayers: [narrating] I gave a lot of the money away. Norm and Lucille would never have to live in a bus shelter again. Tallassee would go around the world taking pictures to her heart's content. The Tynan home would become an estate for lost boys. As for Tolliver, I felt I had lost an enemy but gained a brother, so I felt an obligation to take care of his pocket money while he served his prison term...
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 kiyakidSee 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.

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