Birthday: November 8, 1931
Died At Age: 47
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Darla Jean Hood
Born in: Leedey, Oklahoma
Famous as: Actress
Height: 5'1" (155 cm), 5'1" Females
Spouse/Ex-: Jose Granson (m.1957), Robert W. Decker (m.1949 – div. 1957)
father: James Claude Hood
mother: Elizabeth Davner
children: Brett, Darla Jo
Died on: June 13, 1979
place of death: North Hollywood, California
U.S. State: Oklahoma
Darla Jean Hood was one of the Hollywood’s most cherished child artists. The well-known American child star is remembered for her performances in the ‘Our Gang’ series of short films. Born and raised in Oklahoma, she began learning singing and dancing at a tender age. At the age of 3, her singing talent helped her earn a screen test. After signing a 7-year contract with the ‘Hal Roach Studios,’ she joined the cast of ‘Our Gang.’ With her singing and impish acting, she soon became a popular leading lady of the series. When the series was discontinued (during World War II), she formed a band named ‘Darla Hood and the Enchanters,’ which performed at Ken Murray’s stage show. Hood also participated in solo singing acts at nightclubs. Her singles ‘I Just Wanna Be Free’ and ‘Quiet Village’ were well-received. She worked as a voice-over artist for animated films and commercials. She also made guest appearances on some TV shows. She was married twice. Hood died following a surgery in 1979.
Childhood & Early Life
Hood was born on November 8, 1931, in the rural town Leedey, Oklahoma, to James Claude Hood Jr., a banker, and Elizabeth (née Davner), a music teacher. She was the only child of her parents.
Hood’s mother took her to the ‘Duffy Dance Studios’ in Oklahoma City, where she began learning singing and dancing at an early age. At 3, she was taken to New York City, where she visited the ‘Edison Hotel,’ Times Square, and delivered an impromptu solo performance on the bandleader’s invitation. The audience included Joe Rivkin, the casting director of the ‘Hal Roach Studios,’ Los Angeles. He offered her a screen test, which was later approved by Hal Roach. Hood signed a 7-year contract, at $75 per week.
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Darla Hood was included in the musical variety short films named ‘Our Gang.’ She was an addition to the earlier cast of George “Spanky” McFarland, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, and Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas. Her first appearance was as ‘Cookie’ in ‘Our Gang Follies of 1936’ (1935). She sang ‘I’ll Never Say Never Again’ for this movie and soon became a popular leading lady of the ‘Our Gang.’
Hood performed with ‘Our Gang’ for 6 years (1935–1941) and appeared in various short films of the franchise, including ‘Night ‘n’ Gales’ (1937), ‘Clown Princes’ (1939), and ‘The Pinch Singer’ (1936). She sang ‘I’m in the Mood for Love’ in the last one. ‘Wedding Worries’ in 1941 was her final appearance for the ‘Our Gang’ series.
Her popularity fetched her more roles. Hood soon appeared with ‘Laurel and Hardy’ in ‘The Bohemian Girl’ (1936) and with comedian Charley Chase in ‘Neighborhood House’ (1936). She also worked in the ‘20th Century Fox’ film ‘Happy Land’ (1942). Soon, ‘Roach Studios’ was taken over by ‘MGM.’ She appeared in a small role in their film ‘Born to Sing’ (1942).
The ‘Our Gang’ series was discontinued in 1942 during World War II. Hood made a successful transition to singing. During her school years at the ‘Fairfax High School,’ Los Angeles, she formed a vocal group with the boys of her school. The group was named ‘Darla Hood and the Enchanters.’ Their music was used in the films ‘Letter to Three Wives’ (1948) and ‘Bill and Coo’ (1948). Their group also performed as part of Ken Murray’s stage act ‘Blackouts’ at Hollywood’s ‘El Captain Theatre’ and at ‘The Ziegfeld Theatre’ in ‘Broadway.’ Hood appeared as a regular on the ‘CBS’ program ‘The Ken Murray Show’ (1950–1951).
She became part of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s stage show in 1955. She also performed as a singer for Paul Whiteman’s band. Hood had her own solo singing act at the nightclubs in cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York. In 1957, she released her single ‘I Just Wanna Be Free,’ which was a hit. She also sang with Johnny Desmond in ‘Calypso Heat Wave’ (1957).
Hood recorded Lex Baxter’s ‘Quiet Village’ in 1959. When her first casting director, Joe Rivkin, noticed this single, he offered her the first adult role of her career, in the suspense thriller film ‘The Bat’ (1959). This was also her last movie appearance. She played a secretary in the film and worked alongside Vincent Price and Agnes Moorhead.
During the 1960s, Hood appeared in guest roles on TV shows such as ‘Tell it to Groucho’ and ‘The Jack Benny Show.’ She worked as a voice artist for a Japanese animated feature, which was released in the US as ‘Gulliver’s Travels beyond the Moon’ (1965). She also lent her voice to commercials such as ‘Campbell Soup,’ ‘Chicken of the Sea’ tuna, and ‘Tiny Tears’ doll. The ‘Our Gang’ shorts were renamed ‘The Little Rascals’ for TV syndication. Her last professional work was as a voice actor for the animated TV special named ‘Little Rascals Christmas Special’ (1979), in which she provided the voice of the mother of ‘Spanky’ and ‘Porky.’
Family & Personal Life
In 1949, Hood married Robert W Decker, an insurance salesman. The couple had two children. They divorced in 1957. The same year, she married record publisher Jose Granson, who also looked after her career as her manager. They had three children.
In 1979, Hood organized a reunion of ‘Our Gang’ members. At the same time, she had an appendectomy operation at the ‘Canoga Park Hospital,’ California. It was revealed that a blood transfusion given during her surgery had caused acute hepatitis. This resulted in Hood’s death on June 13, 1979, due to a sudden heart failure. She was interred at the ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery,’ California.