Screengrab: Caine, Wayne…and Alec

Screen GrabRichard Lutz furrows deep into tv movieland to rustle up some icons of the crystal box in your living room.

Look out. Clear all decks.

Ignore all traffic signals and all road blocks.

Time to down periscope and dive into the heavy seas of big names.

Whatta we got for you? Well…Tv offers up boy stars aplenty this week. So without further ado…let’s roll:

Tonight (that’s Sunday for most earthlings) there’s a gem with Michael Caine (see how these crafty headline writers cheekily get the important things into the top bit).

It’s The Quiet American (Sun; BBC2, 23.00). This is based on the Graham Greene novel but re-jigged for the movies by British playwright Christopher Hampton. So, let’s just say it has five stars embroidered all over it. Greene loved Vietnam and lived there off and on for years. He saw the French fuck it up and then the Yanks do a pretty good attempt at carrying on the Gallic model of brutal knuckle-headed imperialism.

Michael Caine is the frayed burned-out Brit hack based in Saigon in the mid ’50s who shares his lover with American aid worker cum spy Brendan Fraser. Kind of a metaphor as the jaded Caine loses his local girl to the bumptious, energetic badly informed Yank. You get the idea.

Caine is splendid. Fraser gets it right as the innocent American who can’t see the forest for the bamboo as he bungles his way into Vietnam politics and war.

Graham Greene is Britain’s voice of the 20th century. He hated the 1958 first attempt at filming the novel when all the deeply felt anti-American subtexts were stripped from the script. Hollywood actually ensured it failed. This 2002 re-make had a rocky history too. Because of 9/11, Hollywood held it back for a year. Miramax, the mega-distributors, wanted it to go straight to video.

Thank God reason prevailed. Caine was nominated for an Oscar. It is one hell of a movie.

OK, you got the Caine bit. Now for Wayne.

Many moviegoers think of The Duke as a monochrome numbskull. If you do, check out The Searchers (Tues; Film4, 11AM). John Wayne, directed by John Ford, is Ethan Edwarda, a Civil War hero with a dubious past who rides hard and obsessively to find a niece kidnapped by Comanches.

It has overtly racist overtones and is drenched in hate. Ford shrugged and said that was how the West was born: out of blood and hate of anyone not white. It is The Duke’s best role – a man who has to learn not to hate, to forgive and to put his past behind him, a part that some overwrought deconstructionalists say includes the backstory that his niece (played by an ingenue Natalie Wood) was his daughter born from a love affair with his screen sister in law (you following?).

Lot of mini-facts. Buddy Holly saw the move in his hometown Texan movie house and wrote That’ll Be The Day after hearing Wayne sneer the line in the dust of Monument Valley. Light rock group The Searchers named themselves after the film. And respected critic Roger Ebert commented that the Ethan Edwards role is “one of the most compelling characters ever portrayed by Ford/Wayne.”

On to Icon Number 3.

Alec Guinness is truly a man for all roles. You know the score. He has done it all.

In the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers (Thurs; Film4, 17.00), he is whacky criminal mastermind Professor Marcus (I believe there is no first name here). He holes up in a little London cul de sac to plan his £60,000 robbery along with oddball pals Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom and a bit player in a young Frankie Howerd. But things don’t go smoothly. They haven’t counted on the 80 year old landlady played by Katie Johnson. She is just that kind of octogenarian who gets it all right by getting it all wrong.

Ealing made great comedies- Guinness was in a bunch of them and always charmed the pants off an audience. The director with the deft touch is Alexander MacKendrick who also made Whisky Galore and the mini-masterpiece The Maggie. He went to Hollywood and only made one memorable film there: The Sweet Smell of Success. He should have stayed in Blighty and continued his wickedly cheeky ways.