He was born 'Arthur Wontner Smith', but assumed the stage name 'Arthur Wontner' when he made his first appearance on stage at the age of 22 in 1897 (the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee). He changed his name legally by deed poll in 1909 (along with his eldest daughter Helen Mary).
He was created a 'Knight of the Crown of Italy' by the King of Italy in 1932 for his part in Mussolini's play 'Napoleon'. John Drinkwater's English adaptation was produced in London in 1936 and Arthur loaned Alfred Cope's portrait of himself playing Joseph Fouche in the play, to hang in the Garrick Club (for actors) in Covent Garden, London.
His oldest son, Hugh, went on to become Lord Mayor of London in 1973. His great grandson Tom Wontner is now also an actor and recently starred in My Yacht (2006).