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Clint in mint condition

Goldman surveys Eastwood's unique career

Not ever a career like it.

Not in all movie history.

You probably think I’m referring to his phenomenal debut performance as the lab technician in “Revenge of the Creature.” Great, sure, but a lot of people forget he followed that baby up with three equally legendary films: “Francis in the Navy,” “Lady Godiva of Coventry” and “Tarantula.”

So much for 1955.

It’s another nine years before he becomes a movie star. The spaghetti Western era. He’s 34, and I would like to suggest that one of the reasons that he is still, well, Clint Eastwood is because he was the reverse of an overnight sensation.

But once the public found him, it did not let go. In ’68, he made the Quigley poll of box office stars, fifth place to be specific.

And of all the stats about him, this next may be the most amazing: Thirty-five years later, in 1993, he was the No. 1 star in the world — and he was well into his 60s — this in a kiddie-driven business.

This next may or may not be true, but it speaks of the man’s quiet. We are talking about the most durable (see above paragraph) star ever — and I think he may have retired as a performer.

He has acted all of once in the last five years. There are at the moment no announced roles on the horizon. Think about that. I think it’s safe to say the man is not driven by publicity.

And I think, in spite of the acting, what he will be remembered for half a century down the line is the stuff behind the camera.

It’s my belief that in spite of the fact that he — along with Francis Ford Coppola and Milos Forman — is one of three living directors to have two best picture winners, he is wildly underrated.

Thirty-five years ago came a terrific first film, “Play Misty for Me.” The rest of the ’70s brought, among others, “High Plains Drifter” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”

In the ’80s, he did a bunch; my favorites are the remarkably sweet “Bronco Billy,” “Pale Rider” and maybe his first great film, “Bird.” The ’90s: “Unforgiven,” the last great Western, and “A Perfect World,” his most underrated flick.

Directors tend to lose it when they hit their 60s. This guy picked up his pace when he got to his 70s. How else do you explain “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby”?

I can’t come close.

I was working the Oscar show once and Charlton Heston, who is amazingly prompt, was to read the opening remarks. But he got a flat tire and no one would give him a lift and the producer went over to Eastwood, who was sitting in the audience, and explained their problem and asked would he take over.

There was no reason for Eastwood to say yes. But he did, and the show began and he starts reading Heston’s opening remarks — and they were mostly Moses jokes.

He laughed with the rest of us until Heston came through the door.

Oh yeah — he can be funny, too.