The cute, young brunette was born in Leedey, Oklahoma and was the only child of James Claude Hood and Elizabeth Davner. Her father worked in a bank and her mother was a music teacher.
It was Hood’s mother who introduced her to singing and dancing at a very early age. She was taken to New York City at age 3, where she was seen by Joe Rivkin, a casting director for Hal Roach Studios. Rivkin arranged a screen test for Hood. She was then taken to Culver City, California to appear in the Our Gang movies.
She made her on-screen debut at age four as “Darla” in the 1935 film Our Gang Follies of 1936 and was soon given a role in The Bohemian Girl with Laurel and Hardy.
From 1935 to 1941, she continued to play in Our Gang. She is well remembered for her coquettish character, typically the love interest of Alfalfa, Butch, or (usually) Waldo. One of her most memorable moments was singing “I’m in the Mood for Love” in The Pinch Singer. (see below)
Life After ‘Our Gang’
Hood eventually outgrew her role in Our Gang. She appeared in a few other films and attended school in Los Angeles.
While at Fairfax High School, she organized a vocal group called The Enchanters with four boys. Shortly after graduation, the quartet was booked by producer and star Ken Murray for his famous “Blackouts”, a stage variety show. The group remained with Murray’s Blackouts during its long run in New York and Hollywood.
Hood then went out on her own with singing engagements in nightclubs and guest appearances on TV. She was a regular on The Ken Murray Show from 1950 to 1951. In 1955, she was a leading lady in the act of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen.
She had a hit record in 1957, “I Just Wanna Be Free“, and appeared in the movie Calypso Heat Wave (1957) singing a duet with Johnny Desmond. She also recorded two songs with the Ray Whitaker Orchestra, “Only Yours” and “Silent Island,” for RayNote Records.
In January 1959, Hood released a new record, Quiet Village. Joe Rivkin, who discovered her as a child, saw the cover and cast her in her final film role, which was also her first adult role in a movie. She played a secretary in the suspense drama The Bat with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead.
Hood was organizing a Little Rascals reunion in 1980 for the Los Angeles Chapter of The Sons of the Desert when she underwent a relatively minor operation at a North Hollywood hospital. Following the procedure, Hood contracted acute hepatitis and died suddenly of heart failure on June 13, 1979. She she was just 47.
The Our Gang community was stunned at Hood’s unexpected death. Fellow Our Gang member Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas said, “I hate to hear it. It’s a shock. She was an awfully nice person, a fine woman. We got along real good as kids.” He himself died a little over a year later.
Darla Hood is buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood.