Synopsis by Bhob Stewart
Scripter Robert W. Lenski adapted G.D. Gearino's novel What the Deaf-Mute Heard for this Hallmark Hall of Fame comedy. It was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, by director John Kent Harrison. During the '40s, single mother Helen (Bernadette Peters) boards a bus for Barrington, Georgia, with her 10-year-old son Sammy (Frankie Muniz). She tells him not to say a word. The two are separated when she exits the bus and is carried away, leaving the sleeping Sammy to travel to Barrington by himself. Because Sammy won't speak, bus-station manager Norm assumes he's mute and deaf. Norm gives Sammy a cot in the back of the station, and he's fed by widower Norm's friend Lucille (Judith Ivey), owner of the adjacent cafe. Years pass, but the grown Sammy (Matthew Modine), working as a handyman, still remains silent. Well-to-do widow Tynan (Claire Bloom) orders him about when she has him clean porch furniture. Her snobbish son Tolliver (Jake Weber), who steals church money, treats Sammy with contempt. Tolliver's sister Tallasse (Anne Bobby) likes Sammy, and she confides in Sammy, thinking he can't hear what she's saying. Her father and Sammy's mother, they learn, both loved the Weill-Gershwin song, My Ship. Throughout Barrington, the locals have learned to trust Sammy, but eventually, joyful junkman Thacker (James Earl Jones) stumbles onto Sammy's secret. Bernadette Peters is heard singing My Ship during the closing credits. What the Deaf Man Heard first aired November 23, 1997 on CBS.
handyman, mother, mute, secrets, son, widow/widower