Difficult Years

Difficult Years (Italian: Anni difficili) is a 1948 Italian drama film directed by Luigi Zampa and starring Umberto Spadaro,[1] adapted from the 1946 short story Vecchio con gli stivali (Old Man in Boots), by the Sicilian author Vitaliano Brancati.

Difficult Years
Film poster
Directed byLuigi Zampa
Produced byDomenico Forzari
Folco Laudati
Written bySergio Amidei
Vitaliano Brancati
Franco Evangelisti
Enrico Fulchignoni
Arthur Miller (English-language version)
StarringUmberto Spadaro
Music byNino Rota
CinematographyCarlo Montuori
Edited byEraldo Da Roma
Release date
  • 9 September 1948 (1948-09-09)
Running time
113 minutes



Italy under Mussolini, 1922 to 1943. In 1922 Aldo Piscitello (Umberto Spadaro) is a municipal employee in the town of Modica, Sicily. With the rise of Mussolini to power, he is forced by his boss (Enzo Biliotti) to join the Fascist Party. If he fails to do so, he would lose his job. Piscitello reluctantly joins the Fascists and even backdates his enrollment to 1921. His wife Rosina (Ave Ninchi) and his daughter (Delia Scala) support his move. As a member of the Fascist party, he however maintains contacts to his anti-Fascist friends who meet at the shop of the local pharmacist (Aldo Silvani).

The power and the ideology of the Fascists are omnipresent. There are military drills on weekends, public gatherings and secret agents. Even Norma’s Bellini is censored by the Fascists.

Piscitello’s son Giovanni (Massimo Girotti) returns from the military service and hopes to take up an ordinary life. He marries the daughter of the pharmacist Maria (Milly Vitale) but, as Italy allies with Germany’s war, he has to re-join the military. The pharmacist is imprisoned after his intonation of the French anthem when Italy declares war against France. 1943: The war returns to Italy and the allies land in Sicily. Piscitello and his family leave their house in order to take refuge on the countryside. At the same time, Giovanni is on furlough. Things take a tragic turn when he is stopped by a unit of fleeing German soldiers. Everyone celebrates the end of the war in Sicily. Piscitello, however, is saddened. Former Fascists claim to be Anti-Fascists. The boss of Piscitello sits with an officer of the US army and sacks Piscitello for his erstwhile membership of the Fascist Party.

English language version

In 1949, Lopert Productions hired playwright Arthur Miller to adapt an English-language version of the film which they had obtained rights in. With dubbing and with narration (by American star John Garfield), the film was released in the United States in 1950.[2]


  1. Crowther, Bosley. "Difficult Years". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  2. Beaver, James N., John Garfield: His Life and Films, Cranbury NJ: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1978, ISBN 0-498-01890-3
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