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.

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."

"With regard to domestics in this country, now and then, I think Dr. King said it best: `All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.' And I thank you for recognizing that with our film," Spencer said.

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 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" won for best animated film, while the Iranian tale "A Separation" was named the foreign-language winner.

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. He started 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."

A Tamer Gervais Leads Predictable Golden Globes

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association dared to let Ricky Gervais come back and host the Golden Globe Awards, a year after he insulted the organization and nearly everyone in the star-studded room with his lacerating wit.

But Gervais and the show seemed tamer and more predictable this year, not quite living up to outrageous reputations. Even the winners themselves, including "The Descendants" and its star, George Clooney, were predictable.

The victory for "The Descendants" in the best drama category sets it up in an expected battle at the Academy Awards with "The Artist," which won the award for best musical or comedy. Both had been frontrunners all along among people who are the business of prognosticating these things; Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 24, with the ceremony itself coming Feb. 26.

Clooney won for his portrayal of a middle-aged husband struggling to raise his two daughters while their mother is in a coma. Jean Dujardin won the same award in the musical or comedy category for "The Artist" as a silent film actor whose career derails with the arrival of sound. ("The Artist" won the most film awards with three total, including one for Ludovic Bource's original score.)

It took the presenters and winners themselves to liven up the program -- and that includes Uggie, Dujardin's scene-stealing Jack Russell terrier in "The Artist," who performed some of his signature tricks on stage toward the end of the night.

While Gervais dropped an F-bomb a couple hours into the broadcast -- likely an accident after some imbibing on and offstage -- he also took aim at easy targets like Kim Kardashian. Later, wine glass in hand, he emerged from the wings to express delight in having "a job where you can get drunk and say what you want, and they still pay you."

After he introduced Madonna with a series of hackneyed puns about her song titles, including "Like a Virgin," the pop star shot back. "If I'm still just like a virgin, Ricky, then why don't you come over here and do something about it?" she deadpanned. "I haven't kissed a girl in a few years -- on TV."

Male genitalia was a frequent theme. Tina Fey and Jane Lynch teamed up to make a penis pun inspired by "Hung" star Thomas Jane. Seth Rogen, taking the stage with the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale, cracked: "Hello, I'm Seth Rogen, and I'm currently trying to conceal a massive erection." And Clooney, in accepting his best-actor award, made a joke about fellow nominee Michael Fassbender, who plays a sex addict in "Shame." "I'd like to thank Michael Fassbender for taking over the full-frontal nudity responsibility that I had," and Clooney then went on to suggest Fassbender could play golf with his hands behind his back.

Even Meryl Streep -- the grand dame of them all who won for best actress in a drama for her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" -- let an expletive slip during her acceptance speech. Streep got flustered when she realized she forgot her glasses at her table; instead she winged it, giving a rambling (but gracious) speech praising other actresses' performances, including some who hadn't even been nominated that night.

Two of Hollywood's most veteran and esteemed directors also were winners Sunday night, both of whom were venturing into 3-D for the first time: Martin Scorsese for best director for the family fantasy "Hugo" and Steven Spielberg for best animated film for "The Adventures of Tintin." Meanwhile, Woody Allen won for his screenplay for "Midnight in Paris" -- but naturally, he wasn't there to accept the statue in person. The comedy is his biggest hit in decades but he's typically reluctant to attend awards shows.

Things were much more fresh and inspired on the television side of the ceremony, with daring shows earning honors and longtime stars going home with statues for new roles.

"Homeland" on Showtime, which explores terrorism and an Iraq war veteran, earned awards for best drama and best actress in a drama for star Claire Danes. It was Danes' third Globe; she won her first when she was just 15 for "My So-Called Life."

Former "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer won best actor in a drama for Starz's "Boss," while former "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc won best actor in a musical or comedy for Showtime's "Episodes." ABC's "Modern Family" was the big winner among commercial broadcast networks, following up its Emmy for best television comedy by winning the Golden Globe. Creator Steve Levitan and actress Sofia Vergara accepted the award with a comic riff in which she spoke in Spanish and Levitan "translated."

Let's hope the after-parties got wilder.


(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)