BEVERLY HILLS, California - The black-and-white silent film "The Artist" led the Golden Globes with three wins Sunday at a show that spread Hollywood's love around among a broad range of films, including best drama recipient "The Descendants" and its star, George Clooney.
Wins for "The Artist" included best musical or comedy and best actor in a musical or comedy for Jean Dujardin. Along with best drama, "The Descendants" won the dramatic-actor Globe for Clooney.
The dual best-picture prizes at the Globes could set up a showdown between "The Artist" and "The Descendants" for the top honor at next month's Academy Awards.
Other acting winners were Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, and Octavia Spencer, while Martin Scorsese earned the directing honor.
"I gotta thank everybody in England that let me come and trample over their history," said Streep, earning her eighth Globe, this time as dramatic actress for playing former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
British stars and productions played a prominent role all night. Comedian Ricky Gervais, who has ruffled feathers at past shows with sharp wisecracks aimed at Hollywood's elite and the Globes show itself, returned as host for the third-straight year.
Kate Winslet won for her acting in "Mildred Pierce," playing a strong-willed divorcee in Depression-era California in the remake of the Joan Crawford classic. Idris Elba, who plays the detective John Luther in BBC America's "Luther," won the Globe for best actor in a TV movie or miniseries.
ITV's "Downton Abbey" won best for best TV miniseries or movie, beating out three nominees from HBO.
Williams won for actress in a musical or comedy as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn," 52 years after Monroe's win for the same prize at the Globes for "Some Like It Hot."
The supporting-acting Globes went to Plummer as an elderly widower who comes out as gay in the father-son drama "Beginners" and Spencer as a brassy housekeeper joining other black maids to share stories about life with their white employers in the 1960s Deep South tale "The Help."
Scorsese won for the Paris adventure "Hugo." It was the third directing Globe in the last 10 years for Scorsese, who previously won for "Gangs of New York" and "The Departed" and received the show's Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement two years ago.
He won over a field of contenders that included French director Michel Hazanavicius, who had been considered by many in Hollywood as a favorite for his black-and-white silent film "The Artist."
Williams offered thanks for giving her the same award Monroe once won and joked that her young daughter put up with bedtime stories for six months spoken in Monroe's voice.
"I consider myself a mother first and an actress second, so the person I most want to thank is my daughter, my little girl, whose bravery and exuberance is the example I take with me in my work and my life," Williams said.
Dujardin became the first star in a silent film to earn a major Hollywood prize since the early days of film. He won as a silent-era star whose career unravels amid the rise of talking pictures in the late 1920s.
It's a breakout role in Hollywood for Dujardin, a star back home in France but little known to U.S. audiences previously. His French credits include "The Artist" creator Hazanavicius' spy spoofs "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" and "OSS 117: Lost in Rio."
While the musical or comedy categories at the Globes offer recognition for lighter films amid Hollywood's sober-minded awards season, the winners usually are not serious contenders for the Oscars. The last time the winner for best musical or comedy at the Globes went on to claim best-picture at the Oscars was nine years ago with "Chicago."
This time, though, "The Artist" and Dujardin have enough critical mass to compete at the Oscars with dramatic counterparts such as "The Descendants" and Clooney.
Both films have a good mix of laughs and tears. "The Artist" could be called a comedy with strong doses of melodrama, while "The Descendants" might be described as a drama tinged with gently comic moments.
Directed by Alexander Payne ("Sideways"), "The Descendants" provided a more down-to-earth role for Clooney, who's often known for slick, high-rolling characters such as those in his "Ocean's Eleven" heist capers and or the legal saga "Michael Clayton."
Adapted from Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel, "The Descendants" casts Clooney as Matt King, the scion of an aristocratic Hawaiian clan and a neglectful dad suddenly forced to hold together his two spirited daughters after his wife falls into a coma from a boating accident.
Along the way, Matt uncovers a staggering secret about his marriage and comes to reevaluate the principles under which he's lived his life.
Charming audiences since it premiered last May at the Cannes Film Festival, "The Artist" tells the story of George Valentin (Dujardin), a big-screen superstar known for adventurous comic capers alongside his adorable dog, who's always at his side on screen and in real life.
As talking pictures take over and the Depression hits, George loses everything - his career, his marriage, his fortune and his home. Through it all, he has a guardian angel in Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo, a supporting-actress Globe nominee and Hazanavicius' real-life romantic partner). A rising talkies star, Peppy got her career going with help from George, and she now aims to repay the favor.
The only time silent films have won best-picture or acting Oscars was in the awards first year, for 1927-28, 16 years before the Golden Globes even started.
At that first Oscar ceremony, when the transition to the sound era was just under way, the silent winners included the war story "Wings" as outstanding picture and the marital betrayal tale "Sunrise" as most unique and artistic picture, the only time that category was used. Janet Gaynor won as best actress for "Sunrise" and two other silent films, while Emil Jannings was picked as best actor for the silent films "The Last Command" and "The Way of All Flesh."
Other than some short silent films and one silent foreign-language nominee in 1983, it's been all talkies among contenders for top honors during Hollywood's awards season in the 83 years since the first Oscars.
"The Artist," which led the Globes with six nominations, also won the musical-score prize for composer Ludovic Bource.
Among its losses was for screenplay, a prize that went to Woody Allen for his romantic fantasy "Midnight in Paris," the filmmaker's biggest hit in decades. Never a fan of movie awards, Allen was a no-show at the Globes.
Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," based on a series of Belgian picture books begun 80 years ago, won for best animated film, while the Iranian tale "A Separation" was named the foreign-language winner.
Gervais started the show with some slams at the Globes as Hollywood's second-biggest film ceremony, after the Oscars.
Gervais joked that the Globes "are just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem. The Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker and more easily bought. Allegedly. Nothing's been proved."
He also needled early winners, saying the show was running long and stars needed to keep their speeches short.
"You don't need to thank everyone you've ever met or members of your family, who have done nothing," Gervais said. "Just the main two. Your agent and God."
ABC's "Modern Family" carried the flag for commercial broadcast networks, following up its Emmy for best television comedy by winning the Golden Globe.
Claire Danes won her third Globe for portraying CIA agent Carrie Mathison on Showtime's new "Homeland." The series that explored terrorism and an Iraq war veteran also won a Golden Globe for best television drama.
Kelsey Grammer won for best actor in a TV drama for playing a powerful Chicago mayor on Starz's "Boss."