What the Deaf Man Heard

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What the Deaf Man Heard
What the Deaf Man Heard.jpg
What the Deaf Man Heard
Created byG.D. Gearino (novel)
Written byRobert W. Lenski
Directed byJohn Kent Harrison
StarringMatthew Modine
James Earl Jones
Theme music composerJ.A.C. Redford
Country of originUSA
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Richard Welsh
Brent Shields
Running time120 minutes
Production company(s)Hallmark Hall of Fame
Original networkCBS
Original releaseNovember 23, 1997
"What the Deaf Man Heard"
Hallmark Hall of Fame episode
Episode no.Season 47
Episode 1
Production code307
Original air dateNovember 23, 1997
Episode chronology
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List of Hallmark Hall of Fame episodes

What the Deaf Man Heard is a 1997 Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie that aired on CBS television on November 23, 1997. It concerns Sammy, a man who pretends to be deaf and mute, when in reality he can hear and speak perfectly well. The movie starred Matthew Modine and James Earl Jones.

Plot summary[edit]

Georgia, 1945. During a stop on a bus trip, Sammy Ayers' mother Helen (Bernadette Peters) ventures into a bar, while Sammy (Frankie Muniz) sleeps on the bus. Helen is murdered as the bus leaves. At the last bus stop in Georgia, Sammy is woken up and realizes that his mother has disappeared. He takes to heart her warning to "keep quiet." He is taken in by the bus station manager, Norm, and informally adopted by Lucille as the entire small town looks after him. While the townsfolk are wondering what to do about him, Sammy notices a young boy lighting a firecracker. Since everyone is startled by the noise of the firecracker except Sammy, it is assumed he can't hear. As Sammy grows to adulthood, he pretends to be deaf and mute as a self-protective device. Over a 20-year period, he hears many secrets and confidences. However, when he hears something harmful he decides to take action, to protect the townspeople who have become his family, revealing his secret.

The Ira Gershwin/Kurt Weill song "My Ship" (sung by Bernadette Peters) is heard at the end of the film, as Sammy listens to a music box.




In her New York Times review, Caryn James wrote: "Nothing seems real in What the Deaf Man Heard. Instead, its soothing, storybook quality has Hallmark written all over it."[2]

The film was the highest-rated made-for-television movie on any network since 1991 with approximately 36 million viewers.[3][4]

The film received 1998 Emmy nominations for Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (Judith Ivey) and won for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Movie.[5] It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV (Matthew Modine).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What the Deaf Man Heard: Cast and Overview". TCM. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  2. ^ James, Caryn (November 21, 1997). "Television Review; Silent 20 Years, but Really Listening". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Jennifer Alpeche (2010). "Hallmark Movie Channel". movies.lovetoknow.com.
  4. ^ Bill Carter (November 26, 1997). "TV NOTES; The Ratings, From All Angles". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "What The Deaf Man Heard". Emmys. 1998. Retrieved July 5, 2016.

External links[edit]