Owing to his upper-class poise and polish, Tone was pigeonholed as a tuxedoed, cafe society sophisticate in a host of mostly MGM comedies and dramas. By 1937 the tall, handsome and sensitive actor was one of Hollywood's most prominent leading men, receiving recognition for his roles in "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935), "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (1935) and "Three Comrades" (1938). Too often, though, he found himself stifled in standardized romantic leads, playing consort to dynamic star actresses, especially his then-wife Joan Crawford.
Save for an occasional success such as Billy Wilder's fascinating "Five Graves to Cairo" (1943) and Robert Siodmak's landmark early film noir, "Phantom Lady" (1944), Tone made few memorable films during the 1940s, and his screen career was all but washed up by the early part of the next decade. Tone was received unwanted publicity when he was assaulted by actor Tom Neal as the two men had an altercation over starlet Barbara Payton, whom Tone would later married. He did, though, successfully repair to the stage in the 50s and intermittently surfaced in character parts in films through the 1960s. He was especially fine as the President of the United States in Otto Preminger's fine political drama "Advise and Consent" (1962) and as the seedy, menacing nightclub owner in Arthur Penn's offbeat 1965 drama, "Mickey One". Tone was also featured in the popular TV series, "Ben Casey" (1965-66).