Boosting his chances of an Oscar nomination later this month, The King’s Speech tells the story of the unlikely relationship between the monarch and an Australian speech therapist.
Accepting his award, Firth referred to his age and said: “To get to this stage of your life with your dignity and judgment intact can be somewhat precarious. Sometimes all you need is a bit of gentle reassurance to keep you on track but right now this [the award] is all that stands between me and a Harley Davidson.”
The film was nominated in seven categories, but Firth’s award was the only one it picked up.
Instead, it was Facebook tale The Social Network that triumphed with four prizes, including best drama and director.
Natalie Portman’s stock also rose with an accolade for her role in the ballet- themed psychosexual thriller Black Swan.
Lead-acting honours for the Globes’ musical or comedy categories went to Annette Bening for the lesbian-family story The Kids Are All Right and Paul Giamatti for the curmudgeon tale Barney’s Version.
The boxing drama The Fighter earned supporting acting Globes, for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo.
David Fincher, directing winner for The Social Network, said he thought it was strange when the script came to him, since he usually makes dark character studies about misanthropes or films about serial killers.
His films include Seven and Zodiac.
“I’m personally loath to acknowledge the kind of wonderful response this film has received for fear of becoming addicted to it, so suffice it to say, it’s been really nice,” said Fincher.
The main snub was for the sci-fi blockbuster Inception, a best-drama contender that had four nominations but lost them all.
The win by Portman as a ballerina coming unhinged amid a production of Swan Lake sets her up for a two-woman showdown for best actress at the February 27 Oscars with Bening, who won for her role as a stern lesbian mother in The Kids Are All Right, which also was named best musical or comedy film.
Among the guests at the awards ceremony were Michael Douglas, who attended with wife Catherine Zeta Jones after beating throat cancer.