Darla Hood

December 16, 2020 0 Comments

Darla Hood was born in the small town of Leedey, Oklahoma on November 8, 1931. Hood began her association with “Our Gang” at the tender age of 2 1/2, as she stated on the The Jack Benny Program (1950). Her father, James Claude Hood Jr., a banker, and especially her mother, Elizabeth Davner Hood, prodded their daughter’s musical talents with singing and dancing lessons in Oklahoma City. She made an unscheduled, impromptu singing debut at Edison Hotel in Times Square when the band-leader invited her onto the stage, and the crowd roared in appreciation. By sheerest coincidence, Joe Rivkin, (an agent of Hal Roach) spotted the four year old scene stealer, screen tested her & signed her to a long-term (7 year) contract at $75 weekly.

Darla went on to perform as the leading “Rascals” actress in 51 of the popular short films plus a television movie. She recalled finding her off-camera time on set as lonely as the boys tended to group together and play such “boys” games as baseball and football. At the beginning of her association with the “Little Rascals”, she appeared opposite Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in one of their handful of feature films, The Bohemian Girl (1936). Darla Hood‘s tenure as most popular “Little Rascals” actress, began in 1935’s Our Gang Follies of 1936 (1935) and her finale, Wedding Worries (1941). Then, almost 40 years later, during the last four months of her life, she voiced her “Little Rascals” character with the animated off-screen special, The Little Rascals’ Christmas Special (1979). She did not live to see it televised.

While very few of the “Our Gang” shorts were made during World War II due to the scarcity of film (a majority of them were saved for feature-length wartime propaganda films), by the time the series was to be finally revived in 1945, she had already outgrown her role. She had some trouble dealing with the inevitable transition into a teen actor and her career faltered badly. She graduated with honors from Fairfax High School (Hollywood). She found some work with Ken Murray‘s popular “Blackbirds” variety show on the Los Angeles stage as well as some behind-the-scenes work in the post-war years.

With her first husband, Robert W. Decker (whom she married when she was 17 years old), she formed the vocal group “Darla Hood and the Enchanters”, which provided incidental background music for such classic films as A Letter to Three Wives (1949). She also made appearances in nightclubs and on television variety shows, The Ken Murray Show (1950), The Paul Whiteman’s Goodyear Revue (1949), and she was also performed & or sang songs, on a few Merv Griffin‘s radio programs. Another successful outlet for her was in the field of voice-over work in cartoons and commercials “Chicken of the Sea” was her longest lasting commercial tenure, as the mermaid. She also did some “Campbell’s Soup” commercials, at the same time, but fewer. In time, she became a well-oiled impressionist and trick voice artist.

In 1957, at the age of 35, she divorced her first husband after eight years of marriage and by whom she had her first two children (one son, Brett, and one daughter, Darla Jo). She promptly married her former manager, Jose Granson, a musical publisher. She and Granson had three children together. Hood remained small in show business until her untimely end, which came on Wednesday, June 13, 1979, when she died of congestive heart failure. She had recently had an appendectomy at Canoga Park Hospital, during which she received a blood transfusion. The transfusion caused her to contract acute hepatitis, which led to her heart failure. She passed away at a Hollywood hospital. Following her funeral, she was buried at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, later renamed Hollywood Forever.

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