The win placed Streep at the top of a glittering field of nominees. Michelle Williams, nominated for ; Viola Davis (The Help), Berenice Bejo (The Artist) and Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin) lost out to a legend.
And Streep? She was so excited to collect her trophy that she lost her shoe, Cinderella-style, on the way to the winners podium. Luckily, Firth was on hand to play Prince Charming, replacing the shoe as well as handing over the award.
The gong for Best Supporting Actress went to Octavia Spencer, who played a firebrand of a housemaid in The Help. Well this is a surprise, she said as co-star and co-nominee Jessica Chastain applauded the win.
The remainder of the night belonged to pun-tastic host Stephen Fry, and to The Artist. The cinematic love note to silent films swept the categories, winning seven awards including those for Best Actor, Director and Film.