Ed Wynn was best known for his comedic work, and it is almost rather hard to believe that one would ever expect for Wynn to play anything but comedy. This is because the fact that Wynn not only just naturally looks funny, but his voice has to be one of the funniest natural voices ever heard on film. Wynn though proves himself capable of giving a dramatic performance here, although it should be noted it is a dramatic performance with comedic undertones. Dussel is suppose to be just a normal man, but has just some rather fussy habits that the film attempts to derive humor from.
Ed Wynn actually is effective in his role though, even though it is most certainly limited by the very nature of the ensemble film. A funny thing about this performance actually is that Wynn seemed to have to tone down his voice and his face, since he stays mostly quiet in the film almost to prevent his comically sounding voice from coming out, as well his facial expressions are always withdrawn as well almost again to hide the fact that he just is rather funny looking when wide eyed. This is only really noticeable though if you have seen many of Ed Wynn's other performances, as I have, and Wynn actually does a good job of keeping realism in his performance as Dussel.
Ed Wynn best scenes though are his quietest ones especially his very first scene where he sadly tells of a list of many Jewish people who have been taken away by the Nazis. Wynn performance here is not overly emotional yet rather there is a haunting quality because he only sadly tells of the facts that cannot be ignored. Wynn never is nearly as effective as his initial scene as he becomes more of just part of the ensemble. Yet Wynn does not becomes forgotten in the rest, and still has a certain presence in their scenes even if it is less than say Winters or Schildkraut.
Wynn comes in and out of focus scenes with most small reactions that for the most part are appropriate. Really his less effective moments come in when he freaks out near the end of the film, only really because his voice comes out more, but still Wynn presents Dussel as a man honestly troubled by his terrible situation. Wynn casting though likely did come from the fact there is some humor involved with the part involved in just his fussiness. Wynn is able to add some humor, while still keeping it within the tone of the film. Wynn actually does add a nice presence to the film overall with his humor, and genuine emotions he does bring to the part. It is not the most memorable, or best performance in the film but it is a good one.