Louis Calhern did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alonzo D. Emmerich in The Asphalt Jungle.
Louis Calhern, who often played authority figures, deserves a great deal of credit for going about fleshing out his character beyond simply what his actions are. Calhern is of course very good in being the bluntest part of the role which is the rich lawyer who would like to be a hot shot criminal. Calhern has the right sort of pompousness in his performance. He seems like the rich man in front of the criminals and is very good in putting an extra emphasis to his rich man demeanor which is fitting as Emmerich is putting on a bit of a show for his associates benefits as he does want to trick them into believing that he will go through with the plan all the way without any tricks up his sleeve. Calhern maneuvers through the act effectively making it easy to see why the criminals would agree to work with him at first, but not agree to trust him later.
Calhern brings more to the role though than just being the seedy man who messes up the money end of the heist. Calhern very good in bringing depth into every facet of Emmerich's life. His affair with a young woman played Marilyn Monroe is particularly well handled by Calhern. When he speaks to her Calhern expresses an interesting combination of emotions in Emmerich as he seems to lust after her while seeming to be disgusted by his behavior at the very same time. Calhern also brings this complexity in his brief scenes where Emmerich spends time with his invalid wife. Calhern portrays the mixed feelings of Emmerich very well once gain although this time it is shame in him for being unfaithful for his wife although along with a boredom of her, although importantly Calhern does bring a subtle warmth in his performance that shows Emmerich still loves his wife despite his own behavior.
Like Sam Jaffe's performance and pretty much every performance in the film there is a certain style to Calhern's work that very much adds to the film as whole. There is something so particular about his manner especially the way that he smokes his cigarette that has a memorable style to it well always feeling authentic. One of the things this film does though is break apart the image of the men in the film with the tough Dix really begin a man just wanting to go home, the mechanical mastermind Doc really being just a lustful old man, and Emmerich although wanting to be the big boss man is really just a pathetic small man. One of Calhern's best scenes is when Emmerich tries to trick Doc and Dix to give him the money but things turn south causing Emmerich's henchmen to be killed by Dix. Calhern is excellent in the scene as he shows Emmerich lose his usual assured manner and become a scared wreck almost driven to tears revealing the truly pathetic Emmerich underneath his fancy suits. Calhern realizes Emmerich as a complex portrait of a man who tries to think big but is in fact a very small man inside.