The awards, decided by the Hollywood foreign press association and often seen as a pointer to the Oscars, saw Ms Blethyn win best dramatic actress for her role as a white working-class mother traced by the black daughter whom she gave up for adoption at birth in Leigh's richly comic and poignant tale.
Winning her first Hollywood award at 50, Ms Blethyn, a secretary for 10 years before she became an actress, said at the ceremony at the Beverly Hilton hotel: "Crikey, I'm happy to be in the building, never mind standing up here."
In a night of wins for Britain, The English Patient - based on Michael Ondaatje's 1992 Booker Prize winning novel - directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Ralph Fiennes, won two awards: best motion picture drama and best original score.
Awards for performances on American television saw three British stars pick up the top honours. Helen Mirren won best actress in a mini-series, for Losing Chase; Alan Rickman was best actor in a mini-series, for Rasputin, and Sir Ian McKellen won best supporting actor, also for Rasputin.
Evita, directed by Alan Parker, won three awards, including best motion- picture musical. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice received an award for best original song with "You Must Love Me", the one new number that the pair composed for the movie. And the star of the film, Madonna, won her first Globe for best actress in a musical. Madonna, who became pregnant while making the film, said at Sunday night's ceremony: "I have been very favourably blessed this past year and I have much to be thankful for. Making this movie was an incredible adventure for me."
The Golden Globes launched Hollywood's awards season with a definite accent on films made abroad. Geoffrey Rush won best dramatic actor for the Australian film Shine. The Golden Globe for best foreign language film went to the Czech Republic's Kolya.
One of the biggest cheers of the night came when the best supporting actress award was won by the veteran star, and widow of Humphrey Bogart, 72-year-old Lauren Bacall. Astonishingly, it was the first major award she had won. Bacall, who played the possessive mother of Barbra Streisand in The Mirror Has Two Faces, waved her Golden Globe aloft to hoots of joy as the audience rose to its feet.
"I'm in a state of shock," she said. "This is the first time I've been nominated for an award in any role."
Dustin Hoffman received a lifetime achievement award, presented to him by his fellow actor Tom Cruise, who himself picked up a statuette for best comedy actor in Jerry Maguire.Reuse content