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Darla Hood from 'Our Gang' Died Shortly after What Appeared to Be a Successful Appendectomy

Bettina Dizon
Dec 31, 2020
02:20 P.M.
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Darla Hood was a child actress best known for her appearance in "Our Gang." While she had a remarkable career, her death cut it short because people believe it could have been an avoidable death at 47 years old.

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Born Darla Jean Hood on November 8, 1931, in Leedey, Oklahoma, the actress was the only child of Elizabeth Davner and James Claude Hood. Hood already made a name for herself in the entertainment industry at a young age, with many fans supporting her.

Although she experienced difficulty transitioning into older roles, she continued her craft in the industry through various avenues. Here's a look at her life, career, and unfortunate death.

Darla Hood in a side-by-side photo of her during her younger years in "Our Gang," and in her older years. | Source: Getty Images

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BECOMING AN ACTRESS

Hood was only a child when she began singing and dancing lessons in Oklahoma City, as orchestrated by her mother. After turning three, Davner took her daughter to New York City for a screen test. The casting director for Hal Studios, Joe Rivkin, fixed her way to stardom and later cast her for what would become her last film.

Hood made her acting debut in the movie "Our Gang Follies of 1936," where she played Cookie. She later appeared in another film, "The Bohemian Girl with Laurel and Hardy." However, she is most recognized for her stint in "Our Gang," a series of short movies from 1935 to 1941.

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Fans of "Our Gand" will remember Hood for her coquettishness and being the love interest of Alfalfa (Carl Switzer), Butch (Tommy Butch Bond), and Waldo (Daarwood Kenneth Smith). One remarkable scene from her time on the series was when she sang "I'm in the Mood for Love" in "The Pinch Singer."

A portrait photo of Darla Hood in the "Our Gang" film series, circa 1935. | Source: Getty Images

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LIFE AFTER "OUR GANG"

Eventually, Hood outgrew her character and left in 1941 at the age of ten. By then, she had appeared in 132 "Our Gang" films. According to the actress, she was no longer a child suitable for the role everybody adored. Nevertheless, she remained active in the entertainment industry, both on and off the screen.

Spending most of her formative on the set shaped Hood's experiences there. In a previous interview, the child star revealed that her happy childhood could be credited to her time on the series and the cast members who turned into family.

After her time on "Our Gang," Hood went to high school and attempted living a normal teenage life. She graduated with honors from Fairfax High School in Hollywood and continued to work after. Like many of her peers, she struggled to transition to more prominent roles but navigated through her career.

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A portrait photo of Darla Hood in the "Our Gang" film series, circa 1935. | Source: Getty Images

Hood formed a vocal group called "Darla Hood and the Enchanters" and successfully made music for films. She also involved herself in commercials on several radio shows and later performed as a solo singer in nightclubs.

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She released "My Quiet Village" for Ray Note Records" in January 1959 and was cast by Rivkin in her first and last film as an adult. She brought to life the secretary in "The Bat," starring alongside Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price.

She also appeared on "You Bet Your Life" and "The Jack Benny Show." In 1979, Hood appeared in "The Little Rascals Christmas Special" and had a stable career in the nightclubs of Sahara Hotel and Casino, Copacabana, and Coconut Groove.

A portrait photo of Darla Hood in the "Our Gang" film series, circa 1935. | Source: Getty Images

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BEHIND THE CAMERAS AND CURTAINS

At 17, Hood married her first husband, Robert W. Decker, who formed "Darla Hood and the Enchanters." Sadly, their marriage only lasted eight years. In 1957, after welcoming a daughter, Darla Jo, and a son, Bret, the couple divorced.

Hood previously spoke about the problems that come with being a child star. Revealing that most often, they believe they are far better because of their accomplishments at a young age, so they do not learn to give to others.

In the end, after years of adoration is a child with no humility. Fortunately, she was not like that. Hood credited her mother for keeping her well-grounded despite her fame and made decisions with her best interest at heart.

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A portrait photo of Darla Hood in the "Our Gang" film series, circa 1935. | Source: Getty Images

HOOD'S DEATH

In 1980, while organizing "The Little Rascals" reunion, Hood had an appendectomy at Canoga Park Hospital, Canoga Park, California. Sadly, she passed away after the procedure due to heart failure. She was 47 during her time of death on June 13, 1979.

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According to the autopsy reports, the beloved actress contracted acute hepatitis from a blood transfusion during the operation, leading to her demise. Were it not for medical negligence; Hood may have lived a long life and contributed more to the entertainment industry.

Following her death, members of the "Our Gang" community were thrown into grief and mourned for her early loss. Billy Thomas, who played Buckwheat in the series, fondly remembered their time together as kids.

Darla Hood and "Our Gang" kid co-stars celebrate Easter Sunday outdoors, circa 1935. | Source: Getty Images

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"I hate to hear it. It's a shock," he said. "She was an awfully nice person, a fine woman. We got along real good as kids." Thomas occasionally spoke to the late actress over the phone and appeared together on a talk show with other cast members.

Many years after her unfortunate end, she is remembered as one of the most successful child actresses of her time. Although gone, her legacy will live on forever.

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