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As depicted in the film, Bob Mathias (1930-2006), who was born in Tulare, CA, was the first person to win the Olympic Decathlon event twice, winning his consecutive gold medals in London in 1948 and in Helsinki in 1952. A June 20, 1954 New York Times news item reported that Mathias had been persuaded to make a film about his life by James L. Fallon, a Los Angeles advertising agency employee. He and Mathias formed a production company, Mathlon Productions, Inc. The news item also stated that forty-five residents of Tulare had invested in the production of the film and represented forty percent of the stockholders of the picture. Many Tulare residents, including Mathias family members, appeared as extras in crowd scenes. A Hollywood Reporter news item on October 6, 1954 reported that the film's final cost was around $180,000. The film utilizes extensive footage of the London and Helsinki Games, including actual footage of Mathias' triumphs. The Flaming Torch was the film's British release title.
Mathias, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from July 1954 until 1956, continued to act until the 1960s, appearing in a number of films, including Frank Borzage's 1958 film China Doll (see below). He also co-starred with Keenan Wynn on the 1959 television series Troubleshooters. Mathias later became a Republican congressman from his home county, serving four terms, and was director of the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The film also marked the screen debut of Diane Jergens.