Legendary actor Karl Malden is fighting a devastating muscle disease which threatened to blind him.

The STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO star, 91, stunned fans when he showed up looking frail at last month's (MAR03) Oscars ceremony, but he now insists he's doing fine following experimental eye surgery.

Malden says, "When you come as close as I did to losing the gift of sight, you realise how beautiful life is and what you would be missing if you couldn't see."

Last year (02), he was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, an immune disorder which weakens muscles, especially those connected with blinking and swallowing. The disease meant he couldn't see through his left eye unless he lifted it up with his finger.

Malden, who lives in Beverly Hills with his wife of 64 years Mona, finally turned to a plastic surgeon who inserted a spring-like device which holds the eyelid open.

He says, "While he was working on my left eye, the other eye started to droop too. So he fixed both. Now I can see and wink and blink."