Darla Hood was born in a small rural Oklahoma town on Sunday, November 8th, 1931, she grew up as dark-banged cute girl, Darla Hood began her association with the motley “Our Gang” group 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 (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 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, ($27,375 was the amount of her 7 year contract, if never raised, annually).
Darla went on to perform as “leading rascal actress” in 51 of the popular short films, and her last was act was an off-screen television movie, for a total of 52 Little Rascal films, exactly. As the solo staff 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, especially baseball and football. Toward the beginning of this lucrative association, she also managed to appear opposite Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy with the title character & leading role, in one of their handful of feature films The Bohemian Girl (1936). Darla Hood’s tenure as most popular “Little Rascal” actress, began in 1935 Our Gang Follies of 1936 (1935) & her finale, Wedding Worries (1941). Then, 37+ years later, was hers & almost all others finale, as a “Little Rascal” character with the animated off screen special, The Little Rascals’ Christmas Special (1979). She did not live to see when it was originally televised. It was filmed during the last four months, of her life-time, in late winter, or early spring of 1979.
While very few of the “Our Gang” shorts were made during World War II because of the scarcity of film (a majority of them were saved for feature-length films), by the time the series was to be finally revived in 1945, Darla had already outgrown her popular character role. Following her exit, she had trouble dealing with the inevitable transitioning into a teen actor and her career faltered badly. After returning to school (Fairfax High School in Hollywood), she graduated as 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, she married him when she was 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 (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 much fewer. In time, she became a well-oiled impressionist and trick voice artist, almost like a ventriloquist.
In 1957, at the age of 35, she divorced her first husband of eight years, with whom she had her first two children, (one son and one daughter), Brett and Darla Jo. She then immediately married her one-time manager, Jose Granson, a musical publisher. She & her second husband, Jose Granson were parents to her youngest three children, (her third, fourth & fifth). Darla remained small in show business until her untimely end. She died on Wednesday, June 13th, 1979 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. The cemetery was renamed Hollywood Forever less than a decade after she was buried there.
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