Born in a small Oklahoma town on November 8, 1931, dark-banged cutie Darla Hood began her association with the motley “Our Gang” group at the tender age of 4. Her father, James Claude Hood, Jr., a banker, and especially her mother, Elizabeth (nee Davner), prodded Darla’s innate musical talents with singing and dancing lessons in Oklahoma City. Little Darla made an unscheduled, impromptu singing debut at the Edison Hotel in Times Square when the bandleader invited her onto the stage, and the crowd roared in appreciation. By sheer chance, a Hal Roach agent (Joe Rivkin) spotted the four-year-old scene-stealer, tested her, and signed her to a long-term (7 year) contract at $75 a week.
Darla went on to perform as “leading lady” in over 150 of the popular short films. As the solo distaff member of the motley Rascals crew, she recalled finding her off-camera times on the set as being rather lonely as the boys tended to group together and play “boy” games. Toward the beginning of this lucrative association, she also managed to appear opposite Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as the title role in one of their handful of feature films The Bohemian Girl.
While very few of the “Our Gang” pictures were made during WWII because of the scarcity of film (much of it was saved for feature-length fare), by the time the series was to be finally revived in 1945, Darla had already outgrown her role. Following her exit, she had trouble dealing with the inevitable transitioning into a teen actor and her career faltered badly. Returning to school (Fairfax High in Hollywood), she graduated an honor student. She was able to find 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 at age 17, 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. She also made appearances in nightclubs and on TV variety shows (“Ken Murray Show, The” (1950) and “Paul Whiteman’s Goodyear Revue, The” (1949)) and on Merv Griffin’s radio show. Another successful outlet for her was in the field of voice-over work in cartoons and commercials (“Campbell Soup,” “Chicken of the Sea”); in time, she became a well-oiled impressionist and trick voice artist.
Divorced from her first husband of eight years, with whom she had two children, Brett and Darla Jo, she subsequently married her one-time manager, Jose Granson, a music publisher, in 1957. Darla remained in some facet of show business until her untimely end. She died in 1979 of heart failure under rather odd and mysterious circumstances at a North Hollywood hospital after contracting acute hepatitis following a relatively minor operation. Buried at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, she was only 47.