Hand color tinted photo of Darla Jean Hood, The Little Rascals, Our Gang
Darla Jean Hood (November 4, 1931 – June 13, 1979) was an American child actress, best known as t”Spanky”he leading lady in the Our Gang series from 1935 to 1941. She was born in Leedey, Oklahoma, the only child of James Claude Hood and Elizabeth Davner. Her father worked in a bank and her mother was a music teacher.
Hood’s mother began her in singing and dancing at an early age, taking her to lessons in Oklahoma City. Just after her third birthday, she was taken to New York City, where she was seen by Joe Rivkin, a casting director for Hal Roach Studios, who arranged a screen test. She was then taken to Culver City, California, to appear in the Our Gang movies.
Hood played Darla in Our Gang. She made her debut at age four 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.
After Our Gang
When she outgrew her role in Our Gang, Hood appeared in a couple of other movies 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 a guest on such TV shows of the early 1960s as Tell It to Groucho and The Jack Benny Show, where she appeared on 30 October 1962 as “Darla” in a spoof of the Our Gang comedies with Jack Benny (who appeared as Alfalfa). She did singing and voice-over on TV commercials, which included Campbell Soup and Chicken of the Sea tuna. She appeared in her own nightclub act at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, the Copacabana in New York, and the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Hood attended many Our Gang/Little Rascals festivals and conventions, meeting and greeting various generations of fans.
Hood was busy organizing the 1980 Little Rascals reunion 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. The circumstances of her untimely passing remain unknown and somewhat mysterious. Hood was 47.
The Our Gang community was stunned at Hood’s unexpected passing. 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.”. A little over a year later, Thomas died as well.
Darla Hood is interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood.
Hood had two marriages, insurance salesman, Robert W. Decker (1949 to 1957), and record company executive, Jose Granson (married 1957). She and Granson had three children. Tommy “Butch” Bond mentioned that her marriage to Granson was difficult because Granson had been confined to a wheelchair following a stroke.