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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Buck Privates (1941)

Slicker “Smitty” Smith (Bud Abbott) and Herbie Brown (Lou Costello) are tie salesman who by accident enlist in the army.

ABBOTT: Neighbour, how much money have you got?
COSTELLO: I’ve got in the vicinity of 28 dollars.
ABBOTT: Oh, you’ve got 28 dollars?
COSTELLO: In the vicinity, in the neighbourhood I’ve got three bucks.
ABBOTT: Then you’ve got three dollars.
COSTELLO: Roughly speaking.
ABBOTT: Roughly speaking.
COSTELLO: When you smooth it out I’ve got a buck.
ABBOTT: Then you have a dollar? You have a dollar.

ABBOTT: Do me a favour, loan me 50 dollars.
COSTELLO: I can’t, I can’t lend you 50 dollars.
ABBOTT: Yes, you can.
COSTELLO: No, I can’t. All I’ve got is 40 dollars.
ABBOTT: All right, give me the 40 dollars, and you owe me 10.
COSTELLO: That’s right. How come I owe you 10.
ABBOTT: What did I ask you for?
ABBOTT: And how much did you give me?
ABBOTT: So, you owe me 10 dollars
COSTELLO: That’s right,… but you owe me 40.
ABBOTT: Don’t change the subject.
COSTELLO: I’m not changing the subject. You’re trying to change my finances. Come on. Give me my 40 dollars.
ABBOTT: All right, there’s your 40 dollars. Now give me the 10 dollars you owe me. COSTELLO: I’m paying you on account.
ABBOTT: On account?
COSTELLO: On account I don’t know how I owe it to you.
ABBOTT: If that’s the way you feel, it’s the last time I’ll ever ask you for 50 dollars.
COSTELLO: Wait a minute, Smitty. How can I owe you 50 dollars now? All I have is 30.
ABBOTT: Give me the 30 and you owe me 20.
COSTELLO: This is getting worse all the time. First I owe him 10, now I owe him 20.
ABBOTT: Why do you run yourself into debt?
COSTELLO: I’m not running in. You’re pushing me.
ABBOTT: I can’t help it if you can’t handle your finances. I do all right with my money.
COSTELLO: And you’re doing all right with mine, too.
ABBOTT: Now, wait a minute, I asked you for 50 dollars, you gave me 30. So you owe me 20 dollars. 20 and 30 is 50.
COSTELLO: No, no, no. 25 and 25 is 50.
ABBOTT: All right here’s your 30 dollars.
COSTELLO: Give me back the 30 you owe me.
ABBOTT: Fine guy—won’t loan a pal 50 dollars.
COSTELLO: How can I loan you 50? All I’ve got now is 10.
ABBOTT: To show you that I’m your pal, you want to double that?
COSTELLO has had enough and just gives him the money.
COSTELLO: Go ahead. See you later.
Abbot gives the money back and cons Costello into a double-or-nothing number game.
ABBOTT: I don’t want that kind of money. On the up and up, hold it. Now take a number. Any number at all from 1 to 10, and don’t tell me.
COSTELLO: I got it.
ABBOTT: Is the number odd or even?
ABBOTT: Is the number between 1 and 3?
ABBOTT: Between 3 and 5?
COSTELLO: No. I think I got him.
ABBOTT: Between 5 and 7?
ABBOTT: Number 6.
ABBOTT: How did he do that?

ABBOTT: You’re 40 she’s 10. You’re four times as old as that girl. Now you couldn’t marry her, so you wait 5 years. Now the little girl is 15, you’re 45. You’re only three times as old as that little girl, so you wait 15 years more. Now the little girl is 30, you’re 60. You’re only twice as old as that little girl.
COSTELLO: She’s catching up.
ABBOTT: Well, yes, yes. Now here’s the question. How long do you have to wait until you and that little girl are the same age? Well?
COSTELLO: What kind of question is that?
ABBOTT: Answer the question.
COSTELLO: That’s ridiculous. What’s ridiculous?
ABBOTT: If I keep waiting for her she’ll pass me up.
COSTELLO: What are you talking about?
ABBOTT: She’ll wind up older that me.

In a boxing match, Costello is knocked to the canvas, and the referee counts him out: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.
COSTELLO: What's this? 2, 4, 6, 8, 10? What happened to 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9?
REFEREE: I don't like them numbers. They're odd.