Child actor Darla (originally Dorla) Jean Hood, born in Leedey, Oklahoma, on November 4, 1931, reached stardom as the leading lady in Our Gang comedies at the age of four. Her parents were James Claude Hood, Jr., a banker, and Elizabeth Hood, who promoted her daughter's dancing and singing lessons. Katherine Duffy, Darla's teacher at the Duffy Dance Studios in Oklahoma City, showed a special interest in her and took her to New York City, where she was discovered by a talent scout. In 1935 Hood signed a seven-year contract at seventy-five dollars a week and immediately starred in Our Gang Follies of 1936. She appeared in 150 Our Gang episodes as well as in a title role with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in The Bohemian Girl (1936).
At age eleven, after spending seven years attending school and filming on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot, Hood had difficulty coping with life outside the studio. As a teenager she formed a vocal group that did the background music for a number of late 1940s films, including Ken Murray's Academy Award-winning Bill and Coo (1948). In 1957 she married her former manager, Jose Granson, a music composer, and they had two children: Brett and Darla Jo. By the late 1950s she used her three-octave-range voice to do television commercials for the Tiny Tears Doll, Campbell's Soup, and Chicken-of-the-Sea Tuna. With her special voice quality she also dubbed television shows and motion pictures, including The Towering Inferno and Airport.
Darla Hood died in Hollywood on June 13, 1979, after being hospitalized for hepatitis. She was buried in Hollywood Memorial Cemetery (now called Hollywood Forever).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 15 June 1979. Leedey (Oklahoma) Star, 25 June 1979. Leonard Maltin and Richard W. Bann, The Little Rascals: The Life and Times of Our Gang (Rev. ed.; New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1992).
Linda D. Wilson
© Oklahoma Historical Society