Los Angeles (CNN) -- Michelle Williams carried home a Golden Globe Sunday night for her portrayal of movie legend Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn."
"Thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for putting in my hand the same award that Marilyn Monroe herself won over 50 years ago," Williams said as she accepted for best actress in a film comedy or musical.
Since the Globes separates dramas from comedies -- unlike the Academy Awards -- Williams was not competing against Meryl Streep, whose portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "Iron Lady" may be her toughest Oscar competitor.
Streep's Globe category -- best actress in a drama film -- was set to be awarded toward the end of the 69th annual Golden Globes award show telecast.
Woody Allen, who did not attend Sunday night's ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, won the Golden Globe for best film comedy or musical screenplay for "Midnight In Paris."
While the Oscar nominations won't be announced until later this month, Allen's movie is considered a best-picture contender.
The Golden Globe for best supporting actress in a film went to Octavia Spencer who played a maid in the Civil Rights era movie "The Help."
Spencer quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in her acceptance: "All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance."
Although the "Help" characters are fictional "they represent scores of real people," she said.
"The narrative itself is part of our fabric," Spencer said backstage. "It's important to keep the younger generation abreast of how far we've come, because this is really foreign to them."
The Globes are the unofficial launch of Hollywood's movie award season, which culminates six weeks later with the Academy Awards.
Early in the broadcast, host Ricky Gervais took quick aim at the Hollywood Press Association, the group that hired him to perform hosting duties for a third year.
Gervais, in his opening monologue, compared the Golden Globes to 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 drunker and more easily bought," he joked.
The group of about 85 writers invited Gervais to host the telecast again this year despite -- or because of -- the controversy stirred last year by his take-no-prisoners jokes.
Kelsey Grammer's Golden Globe may not be the biggest award given out Sunday night, but the actor may have been the happiest backstage where he revealed his wife is expecting twins.
Grammer won for best actor in a television drama series for his role as a corrupt Chicago mayor in the Starz series "Boss."
Among the first trophies handed out was the Golden Globe for best actress in a made-for-TV movie or mini-series to Kate Winslet for her role in HBO's "Mildred Pierce." It was Winslet's third Globe. She won two in 2009, for "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader."
Winslet was asked backstage her opinion of reports that Lindsay Lohan was in negotiations to portray the late Elizabeth Taylor in a film.
"I'm not going to go there, dude," Winslet said. "It's kind of a hot zone."
Christopher Plummer won best supporting actor in a film for his role in "Beginners," while Laura Dern won best actress in a television comedy or musical series for her work in HBO's "Enlightened."
PBS's "Downton Abbey," nominated for four Globes, won for best made-for-TV movie or mini-series.
George Clooney's "The Descendants" and "The Ides of March" are among the six films nominated for best drama. Clooney is also a contender for best actor in a drama for his "Descendants" role and for best director and best screenplay for "The Ides of March."
"The Ides of March" earned a best drama movie actor nomination for Ryan Gosling, who also is nominated for best actor in a comedy film for "Crazy, Stupid, Love."
The other best drama film nominees include "The Help," which is nominated for five Globes, including a best drama actress nod for Viola Davis. Co-stars Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain are competing against each other for best supporting actress.
Best drama contender "Moneyball" is also nominated for best screenplay, while Brad Pitt, who portrayed baseball general manager Billy Beane, is up for best actor in a drama film. Jonah Hill, who played Beane's statistical wizard, is nominated for best supporting actor.
Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" is competing for best drama.
Spielberg's "The Adventures Of Tintin" won the Golden Globe for best animated feature film.
"Hugo" rounds out the nominations for the best movie drama category. Martin Scorsese won best film director for the 3-D family film.
The best drama film actor category also includes Leonardo DiCaprio for his portrayal of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in "J. Edgar," and Michael Fassbender for "Shame."
Meryl Streep, who has been nominated 25 times before for Globes and won seven of the trophies, is again in the running for best actress in a drama film. She is nominated for portraying former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."
Glenn Close, who produced, co-wrote and stars in "Albert Nobbs," was nominated as best actress. Co-star Janet McTeer is nominated in the best supporting actress category.
Along with Davis, Streep and Close, the best drama actress competitors include Tilda Swinton for "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and Rooney Mara for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."
The best foreign-language film honor was awarded to the Iranian film "A Separation."