Triple triumph for Mike Leigh comedy

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The Independent Online
Mike Leigh's comedy Secrets and Lies made up for its failure in the Oscars by scooping three Bafta awards last night, including best actress for Brenda Blethyn. The English Patient also won three awards, though it had been nominated for 13.

EastEnders, the BBC's thrice-weekly soap opera starring Barbara Windsor (pictured), was voted best drama series by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts - the first time a soap opera has won the coveted award.

A separate special award, the Lou Grade Award for a significant popular television programme, went to ITV's long-running soap Coronation Street.

The Bafta awards, which mix film and television prizes, were presented at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Among the guests were Diana Ross, Ursula Andress, Michael Caine and Lauren Bacall, in a sparkly blue trouser suit. Bacall, who missed out on an Oscar for best supporting actress in favour of Juliette Binoche in The English Patient fared no better in Britain. Binoche beat her again. The English Patient also won best film and best adapted screenplay.

There was applause for Mike Leigh whose Secrets and Lies won best original screenplay and the Alexander Korda award for outstanding British film of the year. Blethyn's performance as the white mother who discovers the child she gave away at birth is black, deservedly won best actress. Best actor, as in the Oscars, was Geoffrey Rush for Shine.

The House, the documentary about a year in the life of the Royal Opera House, was best factual series. Hillsborough, the moving account of the football disaster, was best single drama, and Our Friends in the North best drama serial. David Jason was awarded best comedy performance for Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, which also won best comedy programme.

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