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Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and HappinessPretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness


Pretty Woman (1990)


Famous for...

  • Making Julia Roberts a star. She plays a prostitute, Vivian, who convinces the rich and ruthless businessman (played by co-star, Richard Gere) that people are more important than profit.
  • Being the most popular romantic comedy ever. Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness
  • Its soundtrack including Roy Orbison’s (pictured right in the 1960's) big 1964 hit, Oh, Pretty Woman (played when Vivian is buying clothes in Beverly Hills, the super rich district of Los Angeles)


Set in...

Los Angeles.

 Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness


Garry Marshall (pictured right, who also directed Roberts and Gere’s 1999 romantic comedy, Runaway Bride).



None (although Julia Roberts was nominated for best actress).


Key charactersPretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts, pictured right), prostitute.

Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), rich and ruthless businessman.

Philip Stuckey, (Jason Alexander) Lewis’s lawyer.

James Morse (Ralph Bellamy), owner of a shipyard.


The storyPretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

Edward Lewis (pictured right) makes his millions buying and selling companies without regard to the:

  • welfare of their employees.
  • the social and economic cost of his deals.

Like his lawyer, Philip Stuckey, he is only interested in money and profit.

In Los Angeles Edward:

  • borrows Stuckey’s sports car.
  • picks up kind hearted Vivian Ward, pictured right below (who is living with her fellow prostitute and best friend, Kit). Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

They spend the night at the luxurious Beverley Wilshire Hotel in super rich Beverly Hills.

He hires her to:

  • stay at the hotel.
  • be his escort for the next week.


  • rings Kit to tell her the great news.
  • learns dinner etiquette from the kind hotel manager, Barney.
  • buys a dress (with Barney's help) after being snubbed by Beverly Hills boutiques. Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

Stunning in her fantastic dress, Vivian escorts Edward to a dinner with James Morse (pictured right), and his grandson, David, who try unsuccessfully to stop Edward (with Stuckey's help):

  • buying their shipyard. 
  • closing it down. 
  • selling its assets (to make as much money as possible).

On their return to the hotel, Edward tells Vivian he

  • hated his recently deceased father.
  • didn’t speak to him for 14 and a half years.

They then make love on the hotel’s lounge piano late at night.

The next morning Edward takes her back to the stores that snubbed her, and, helped by his credit card, they treat her like a movie star.

They go to a polo match (pictured right), where Vivian overhears Edward telling Stuckey that she’s a Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happinessprostitute.


  • feels dirty.
  • threatens to leave Edward (who persuades her to stay).

He then takes her to the opera, where he’s impressed by her emotional involvement in the story.


  • has fallen in love with Edward.
  • is insulted by extending her contract as a prostitute.
  • wants a “fairy tale” of true romance.

Back at work, Edward agrees to help run James Morse’s shipyard rather than selling it.

Stuckey (pictured right):Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

  • is furious.
  • visits Vivian at the hotel.
  • hits and tries to rape her.


  • rescues Vivian and throws out Stuckey (criticizing his greed).
  • still refuses a romance with her.

This snub prompts a tearful Vivian to:

  • return to her apartment.
  • give up prostitution.Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness
  • continue her education in San Francisco.

Having been told where she lives by Barney (the hotel manager, remember), Edward:

  • arrives at her apartment with a bunch of roses (pictured right).
  • seals their love with a kiss.


Lessons for happiness and business ethics

 Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

1. Forget your past

Edward had to spend thousands of dollars in therapy to admit that he hated his father.


2. Do something worthwhilePretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

Even before Edward arrives for her, Vivian decides to:

  • give up prostitution.
  • continue her education.

He finally realizes that he wants to do something more useful than just making money (see point 3):

  • loving Vivian.
  • building ships

 Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

3. Money isn’t everything

Edward is miserable, when he’s making millions by selling companies’ assets at the expense of ordinary working people who are trying to be socially and economically useful.

Vivian’s love reminds him that

  • work isn’t everything.
  • people must come first (see point 4).


4. People before profit

The film shows that profit and efficienPretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happinesscy are important, but people’s needs must come first.

Edward’s relationship with Vivian changes from a business transaction to true love.

With her help, he also realizes that the shipyard owner, James Morse:

  • is a good man.
  • deserves his help (unlike the greedy and despicable, Philip Stuckey).


5. Be true to yourselfPretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

Vivian and Edward discover that happiness comes from living by your principles like:

  • integrity.
  • kindness.
  • honesty.

Vivian is ashamed when Edward treats her like a prostitute.

He is only content when he admits that he can’t buy her love but must earn it.

 Pretty Woman – Business Ethics and Happiness

6. Know who your true friends are

Philip Stuckey, Edward’s lawyer, is a loyal employee but a lousy friend, who treats Vivian disgracefully.

Barney, the hotel manager, is a real friend for Vivian helping her with her dinner etiquette!


7. Follow your dream

Vivian wants the “fairy tale” of love ever after and gets it.


Key quote on business ethics

You and I are very similar, Vivian. We both screw people for money, Edward.


Two film websites to recommend

1. filmsite.org (run by Tim Dirks).

2. aveleyman.com (run by Tony Sullivan)

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