Top of the World, Ma!
A football player from Ohio who needs an operation goes to find the New York mobster who owes him money.
If you come to the city of New York from outside the pale as conceived by the city of New York, you have to be prepared. “Bubba” White has weak knees like “Broadway” Joe Namath (or John Doe with a bad elbow) but the Red Devils of Dayton don’t pay him much. For an operation, he strongarms some deadbeats on the rolls of Barney Sweetwater’s Dayton collection agency, but Sweetwater doesn’t pay up. No, he tells Bubba, it’s the big guy in New York, Jack Faraday, and that little aide-de-camp of his, Gruber, they stiffed you. So Bubba and his mother Ernestine put up at the St. Richard Hotel (“so elegant,” says Mrs. White, “it doesn’t even look American”) in the finest suite available (“the Presidential Suite is being fumigated,” says the bellboy—“top of the world, ma!” says Bubba) while he calmly sets about in Sweetwater’s car to track down and collect his $10,000 commission.
Larry and Dave are Gruber’s henchmen. Every day at one o’clock, Bubba is told, the pair eat lunch at the Lavender Doily Bar (“it's a saloon,” says Gruber, or “a joint on Seventh Avenue”). While waiting, Bubba goes next door and meets Jackie Dawn at Fifi’s Live Models. Later on, he’s framed for Sweetwater’s murder and shot once or twice, but his innocent soul knows “everything’s going to be all right” in the end.
Bo Svenson’s performance is huge, lumbering, graceful and dignified, everything it should be. Stefanie Powers goes about as far as she can with the sort of environment depicted in 52 Pick-Up and Hardcore, and so does Alex March. Rather than dwell on details, he moves his unit outside on location to get some real local beauty on film, and give his office interiors (especially Jack Faraday’s) some tint of nature. This is where Faraday tells cigar-smoking Gruber, “keep that thing out of my office,” and where he cajoles Sweetwater into confessing his theft of “five or six per cent” off the top, monthly.
McCloud stumbles into all of this because Chief Clifford puts him on Stolen Car Detail, calling him “an exchange student.” Sgt. Broadhurst slaps the report book for the last six months down on McCloud’s desk. Where is the marshal supposed to begin, at the back or the front? “With the next one that comes in,” says the sergeant.
Bo Svenson Charles “Bubba” White
Story by Raymond Danton
Directed by Alex March
Theater Marquees: Robert Sparr’s More Dead Than Alive, Gordon Parks’ Shaft, Jack Haley, Jr.’s The Love Machine, James Goldstone’s Brother John, Dick Clement’s A Severed Head, and Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World.
ERNESTINE WHITE: (On the New York hotel where her son Bubba has ensconced her.) It doesn’t even seem American. It’s so elegant!
McCLOUD: If we’d a had this Jack Faraday character down in Taos,
New Mexico, we’d a had him a lot longer than two and a half hours. We’d a had
him tied s’tight he couldn’t fight the flies off.
CHIEF CLIFFORD: Is that right?
McCLOUD: That’s right, and branded, you betcha.
McCLOUD: Slept like a log, ate like a hog.
(Sign in shop window:)
McCLOUD: Excuse me, Miss Dawn?
JACKIE DAWN: Yeah. What are you dressed for?
(At Fifi’s Live Models.)
CHARLES “BUBBA” WHITE: I never met a New York model before.
JACKIE DAWN: Yeah, well neither have I.
McCLOUD: (To Barney Sweetwater.) Yeah, seems like people never are what they ought to be.
McCLOUD: (To Flynn.) I’m overly interested in these New York detective things, these crimes of purple passion, axe murders and things like that, they—they fascinate me, I love ‘em.