Classic Movie Travels: Darla Hood
Darla Jean Hood was born on November 8, 1931, in Leedey, Oklahoma. She was born to James and Elizabeth Hood. James worked as a bank teller, while Elizabeth was a housewife. Elizabeth was instrumental in introducing Hood to song and dance, regularly taking her to music lessons in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. By her third birthday, Hood was scouted by Hal Roach Studios casting director Joe Rivkin. After a successful screen test, she and her family traveled to Culver City, California, so that she could appear in the Our Gang shorts.
Initially, she appeared in Our Gang as a character named Cookie. For all her other Our Gang appearances, she carried out the role of Darla. Her character was well-known for being the love interest of Alfalfa, as well as other characters on occasion. Among many screen appearances, she could be seen in Our Gang Follies of 1936 (1935) and The Bohemian Girl (1936) with Laurel and Hardy. Her final Our Gang appearance was in Wedding Worries (1941).
As she grew, she pursued more mature roles while attending Fairfax High School. Continuing to exhibit her vocal abilities, she organized a vocal group at Fairfax called the Enchanters, which featured her vocals and the back-up vocals provided by four male students. Upon graduation, the group was booked to partake in a variety show, remaining with Ken Murray’s Blackouts variety show throughout its run in New York City and Hollywood.
Hood married singer and insurance salesman Robert W. Decker in 1949. They divorced in 1957.
Later, Hood appeared solo in nightclubs and as a guest on television shows. She worked with ventriloquist Edgar Bergen as a leading actress in his sketches and performed regularly on The Merv Griffin Show. She also recorded several singles for Ray Note and Acama labels. Rivkin, who discovered her, saw the cover to one of her albums and eventually cast her in what would be her final film role and first adult role in a film—portraying a secretary in The Bat (1959) with Vincent Price.
Hood continued to appear as a guest on many television shows, including You Bet Your Life, The Jack Benny Show, and The Little Rascals Christmas Special. She sang and offered voiceovers on commercials for Campbell’s Soup and Chicken of the Sea tuna. Additionally, she carried out a nightclub act at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, California; Copacabana in New York, New York; as well as the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hood married for the second time to record company executive Jose Granson in 1957, with whom she had three children and remained married until her passing.
Hood was working on organizing a 1989 Little Rascals reunion when she needed to undergo an appendectomy at Canoga Park Hospital. She passed away from heart failure on June 13, 1979. She was 47 years old. Hood is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.
There are some locations of relevance to Hood that remain today. In 1940, Hood and her parents lived at 911 N. Alfred St., Los Angeles, California. This location no longer stands.
In 1956, she lived at 13802 Runnymede St., Van Nuys, California. The home still stands today.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is located at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, California.
–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub
Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.
Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.