Darla Hood Biography

Darla Jean Hood, a beloved child artist in Hollywood, gained fame for her performances in the renowned ‘Our Gang’ series of short films. Hailing from Oklahoma, she began honing her singing and dancing skills at a young age. At just 3 years old, her exceptional singing talent led her to a screen test, ultimately securing a 7-year contract with the esteemed ‘Hal Roach Studios.’ Joining the cast of ‘Our Gang,’ her enchanting singing and mischievous acting quickly propelled her to become a beloved leading lady of the series. Following the discontinuation of the series during World War II, Hood formed a band called ‘Darla Hood and the Enchanters,’ which showcased their talents at Ken Murray’s stage show. Additionally, she embarked on solo singing acts at nightclubs, receiving acclaim for her singles ‘I Just Wanna Be Free’ and ‘Quiet Village.’ Hood also lent her voice to animated films and commercials, while making guest appearances on various TV shows. Throughout her life, she was married twice, but tragically passed away after undergoing surgery in 1979.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Darla Jean Hood
  • Died At Age: 47
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Jose Granson (m.1957), Robert W. Decker (m.1949 – div. 1957)
    • Father: James Claude Hood
    • Mother: Elizabeth Davner
    • Children: Brett, Darla Jo
  • Actresses
  • Child Actresses
  • Height: 5’1″ (155 cm), 5’1″ Females
  • Died on: June 13, 1979
  • Place of death: North Hollywood, California, United States
  • Diseases & Disabilities: Appendix, Hepatitis
  • Cause of Death: Heart Failure
  • U.S. State: Oklahoma

Childhood & Early Life

Darla Hood was born on November 8, 1931, in the rural town of Leedey, Oklahoma. Her parents were James Claude Hood Jr., a banker, and Elizabeth Davner, a music teacher. She was their only child. At a young age, Hood’s mother took her to the Duffy Dance Studios in Oklahoma City, where she began learning singing and dancing. When she was 3 years old, she visited New York City and delivered an impromptu solo performance at the Edison Hotel in Times Square. This caught the attention of Joe Rivkin, the casting director of the Hal Roach Studios in Los Angeles. He offered her a screen test, which was approved by Hal Roach, and she signed a 7-year contract at $75 per week.

Career

Darla Hood’s career began with her inclusion in the musical variety short films called “Our Gang.” She joined the existing cast of George “Spanky” McFarland, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, and Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas. Her first appearance was as “Cookie” in “Our Gang Follies of 1936” in 1935. She sang “I’ll Never Say Never Again” for this movie and quickly became a popular leading lady of the “Our Gang” series. Hood continued to perform with “Our Gang” for 6 years, appearing in various short films such as “Night ‘n’ Gales” (1937), “Clown Princes” (1939), and “The Pinch Singer” (1936). She also worked with Laurel and Hardy in “The Bohemian Girl” (1936) and with comedian Charley Chase in “Neighborhood House” (1936). Hood’s popularity led to more roles, including a small role in the 20th Century Fox film “Born to Sing” (1942).

During her school years at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, Hood formed a vocal group called “Darla Hood and the Enchanters” with boys from her school. Their music was used in films such as “Letter to Three Wives” (1948) and “Bill and Coo” (1948). They also performed as part of Ken Murray’s stage act “Blackouts” at Hollywood’s El Captain Theatre and at The Ziegfeld Theatre on Broadway. Hood appeared as a regular on the CBS program “The Ken Murray Show” from 1950 to 1951. She later became part of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s stage show in 1955 and performed as a singer for Paul Whiteman’s band. Hood had her own solo singing act at nightclubs in cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York. In 1957, she released her single “I Just Wanna Be Free,” which became a hit. She also sang with Johnny Desmond in “Calypso Heat Wave” (1957) and recorded Lex Baxter’s “Quiet Village” in 1959.

Hood’s first casting director, Joe Rivkin, noticed her single “Quiet Village” and offered her the first adult role of her career in the suspense thriller film “The Bat” (1959). This was her last movie appearance, where she played a secretary alongside Vincent Price and Agnes Moorhead. In the 1960s, Hood made guest appearances on TV shows like “Tell it to Groucho” and “The Jack Benny Show.” She also worked as a voice artist for a Japanese animated feature called “Gulliver’s Travels beyond the Moon” (1965) and lent her voice to commercials for brands like Campbell Soup, Chicken of the Sea tuna, and Tiny Tears doll. The “Our Gang” shorts were renamed “The Little Rascals” for TV syndication. Hood’s last professional work was as a voice actor for the animated TV special “Little Rascals Christmas Special” (1979), where she provided the voice of the mother of Spanky and Porky.

Family & Personal Life

In 1949, Darla Hood married Robert W Decker, an insurance salesman, and they had two children. They divorced in 1957. In the same year, she married record publisher Jose Granson, who also became her manager. They had three children together. In 1979, Hood organized a reunion of “Our Gang” members. During this time, she underwent an appendectomy operation at the Canoga Park Hospital in California. It was later discovered that a blood transfusion given during her surgery had caused acute hepatitis, which ultimately led to her death on June 13, 1979, due to sudden heart failure. She was laid to rest at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in California.

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