Joseph Schildkraut did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.
Although Anne has a fairly cold relationship with her mother she has a far better relationship with her father. Schildkraut is terrific in helping to establish this so well with his performance. There is such a generous amount of warmth that he brings out, that feels all the more special in the somewhat timid way he expresses himself. Schildkraut portrays Otto as somewhat unassuming but always so very welcoming in his manner. This is particularly well reflected in his relationship with Anne as merely take the early scene where they wait out the work day the first time before they are allowed to move and actual live again. Schildkraut effortlessly depicts just how naturally loving Otto is towards his family and Anne. There is nothing even to be said about it as there is never but this in his eyes in any given moment, and Schildkraut is able to find this in such a wholly genuine way which is essential for his character. Schildkraut is great though because he makes it feel like such a real affection with Mr. Frank, as there is nothing overbearing or too forceful about. It is something that simply exists through Schildkraut's performance and he makes it abundantly easy to understand why Anne is so attached to him, over her mother.
The Diary of Anne Frank is a long film as it focuses on various moments and interactions with Anne and between the other people in the attic, which eventually added one more via Ed Wynn's Mr. Dussel. Although Anne is kept as a focal point the film focuses very much on the ensemble wherein lies a bit of a challenge in which to stay noticed without seeming to try forcibly to become the center of attention. It could be argued that a few of the other performers. Well this is opposed to the character of Otto as well as opposed to Joseph Schildkraut's performance. Schildkraut though he was one of those reprising his stage and had not made a theatrically released film in over ten years before appearing in this one gives a particularly reserved portrayal of Otto Frank. It's quite outstanding then that Schildkraut is never overshadowed in any scene, despite never once trying to actively steal any scene from any other actor in the film. If he's onscreen he manages to hold some attention through his particularly honest depiction of a man leaving through this situation with his family. In simply his silent reactions Schildkraut always adds some power to the proceedings because of how natural he is in every scene.
When a scene focuses closer on Otto Schildkraut makes the most of this as well. There is one particularly great moment where he comforts Anne after a nightmare. Schildkraut brings out the tenderness of Otto comforting his daughter in such a moving fashion, but within that he effective portrays the way Otto is attempting to coax Anne into being showing more love for mother. The love is never in doubt but Schildkraut is terrific in the way he does not let it be only that as in his eyes he manages to convey the disappointment still in his daughter for her problematic behavior. Otto is always the calm center of the attic, who always tries to find the most peaceful solution for everyone. In this point Schildkraut is great simply because he never feels any less than pure in his character's goodness. It always feels the truth. There is another particularly strong scene for him when the attic is breaking apart due to one of the occupants stealing from the rations. While everyone else is falling apart Schildkraut realizes only a true goodness in Otto's disbelief at the anger of the others, and once again that reassuring quality, although slightly weakened over time, that comes from the considerable optimism that never seems to leave the man.
This optimistic man is not he one we first meet in the film as it opens with Otto after the war as he makes his way back to the attic alone. Schildkraut in this scene shows a man without optimism, there have been time of suffering in the meekness, and cold way he approaches the building. He has suffered a great deal, and Schildkraut realizes this in the almost unbearable somberness just before the film jumps back as Otto begins to read his daughter's diary. Even though the time in the diary's timeline ends with one last moment of Schildkraut so well showing that perseverance in Otto as they are about to be arrested, this makes it all the more devastating when it cuts back to Schildkraut depicting Otto as almost a broken man. Schildkraut is so haunting as he lists off learning of the deaths of the people in the attic as the painful memories seem to inflict him with such sadness, until he reaches Anne. Although we are not shown any of the deaths of the others Schildkraut's performance makes every one keenly felt. Schildkraut is absolutely heartbreaking as he so quietly tells the story of how he found out that Anne also had died, because in his breaths the last moments of hope seems to go out of his voice as he seems to accept that he is all that remains from the once life filled place. Although I do think the film has some missteps along the way the power of the story is never lost in a large part due to Schildkraut's work. He creates that sense of loss by so well creating such a warm and loving portrayal of a devoted father, only to strip it away to a man whose seemed to have lost all faith in humanity.