Judith Barsi

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Judith Barsi
Barsi Judith.jpg
Barsi on an episode of Punky Brewster
Born
Judith Eva Barsi

(1978-06-06)June 6, 1978
DiedJuly 25, 1988(1988-07-25) (aged 10)
Canoga Park, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of deathHomicide by gunshot
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
OccupationActress
Years active1984 – 1988
Parent(s)József Barsi (1932 – 1988)
Maria Barsi (1940 – 1988)

Judith Eva Barsi (June 6, 1978 – July 25, 1988) was an American child actress of the 1980s. Barsi began her career in television, making appearances in commercials and television series as well as in the films Jaws: The Revenge, The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go to Heaven, providing the voices for animated characters in the latter two. She and her mother, Maria, were killed in July 1988 as a result of a double murder–suicide perpetrated in their home by her father, József Barsi.[1]

Family history[edit]

Barsi was born in Los Angeles County, California, on June 6, 1978, the daughter of József Istvan Barsi and Maria Virovacz, both immigrants to the United States who fled the Hungarian People's Republic following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.[1][2] The two immigrated at different times and met at a restaurant in California, where Maria worked as a server, and both had been previously married.[1]

Career[edit]

Maria Barsi began grooming her daughter to become an actress when Judith was five.[1] Barsi's first role was in Fatal Vision, playing Kimberley MacDonald. She went on to appear in more than seventy commercials and guest roles on television.[3] As well as her career in television, she appeared in several films, including Jaws: The Revenge, and provided the voices of Ducky in The Land Before Time, and Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven.

By the time she started fourth grade, Barsi was earning an estimated $100,000 a year, which helped her family buy a three-bedroom house in West Hills, Los Angeles.[4] As she was short for her age—she stood 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m) at age 10[1]—she began receiving hormone injections at UCLA to encourage her growth. Her petiteness led casting directors to cast her as children that were younger than her actual age. Her agent Ruth Hansen was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying that when she was ten, "she was still playing 7, 8."[1]

Abuse and death[edit]

As Barsi’s career success increased, József, an alcoholic, became increasingly angry and would routinely threaten to kill himself, his wife and daughter. His drinking led to three arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol.[1] In December 1986, Maria reported his threats and physical violence toward her to the police. After the police found no physical signs of abuse, she decided not to press charges against him.[1]

After the incident with the police, József reportedly stopped drinking, but continued to threaten Maria and Judith. His various threats included cutting their throats as well as burning down the house. He also reportedly hid a telegram informing Maria that a relative in Hungary had died, in an attempt to prevent her from leaving the United States with Judith.[5] The physical violence continued, with Barsi telling a friend that her father threw pots and pans at her, resulting in a nosebleed.[6] As a result of his abuse, Barsi began gaining weight[5] and exhibited disturbing behavior, such as plucking out her eyelashes and pulling out her cat's whiskers.[1] In May 1988, after breaking down in front of Hansen, Barsi was taken by Maria to a child psychologist, who identified severe physical and emotional abuse and reported her findings to Child Protective Services.[1]

The investigation was dropped after Maria assured the case worker that she intended to begin divorce proceedings against József and that she and Judith were going to move into a Panorama City apartment she had recently rented as a daytime haven from him.[7] Maria's friends urged her to follow through with the plan, but she hesitated due to her fear of losing the family home and belongings.[1]

On July 28, 1988, the Los Angeles Times reported that three people were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide and that the victims were believed to be that of Barsi, her mother Maria, and her father József.[8] The article quoted Police Lt. Warren Knowles as saying a flammable liquid, likely gasoline, had been poured on the bodies of Maria and Judith by József. József's body was found in the garage, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Neighbor Eunice Daly stated she heard a gunshot around 8:30 a.m. on July 27, prompting her to call the police.[9] Barsi and her mother were buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in adjoining plots.[10]

Aftermath[edit]

Barsi’s final film, All Dogs Go to Heaven, in which she provided the speaking voice of Anne-Marie, was released in November 1989.[11] In an interview, Don Bluth, the director of both The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven, praised her as being "absolutely astonishing. She understood verbal direction, even for the most sophisticated situations".[12] Bluth stated he intended to feature her extensively in his future productions.[13] The closing credits song Love Survives was dedicated in her memory.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1984 Fatal Vision Kimberly MacDonald (age three) Miniseries
Jessie Katie Episode: "Valerie's Turn"
1985 Kids Don't Tell Jennifer Ryan Television movie
Do You Remember Love Kathleen Television movie
Knots Landing Bratty Girl Episode: "#14 with a Bullet"
The Twilight Zone Bertie Segment: "A Little Peace and Quiet"
There Were Times, Dear Molly Reed Television movie
The Fall Guy Little Girl Episode: "Escape Claus"
1986 Remington Steele Laurie Beth Piper Episode: "Suburban Steele"
Punky Brewster Anna 2 episodes
Trapper John, M.D. Lindsay Christmas Episode: "Life, Death and Dr. Christmas"
Cheers Child #1 Episode: "Relief Bartender"
Cagney & Lacey Shauna Bard Episode: "Disenfranchised"
The New Gidget Little Girl Episode: "It's Only Rock & Roll"
Eye of the Tiger Jennifer Matthews
The Love Boat Christmas Angel Episode: "The Christmas Cruise: Part 2"
1987 Destination America Amy Television movie
Slam Dance Bean
Jaws: The Revenge Thea Brody
1987–88 The Tracey Ullman Show Little Girl / Karen 2 episodes
1988 St. Elsewhere Debbie Oppenheimer Episode: "The Abby Singer Show"
1988; 1992 Growing Pains Young Carol Episodes: "Graduation Day"
"The Last Picture Show, part 2" (archive footage from "Graduation Day")
1988 ABC Afterschool Special Billie Foster Episode: "A Family Again"; Released posthumously
The Land Before Time Ducky (voice) Released posthumously
1989 All Dogs Go to Heaven Anne-Marie (voice)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Johnson, John; Fuentes, Gabe (August 7, 1988). "A Script of Fear: Repeated Threats by Father of Child Actress Carried to Tragic End". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  2. ^ Barsi, Ági (1999). What Will You Do?. A Better Life. ISBN 0967169399.
  3. ^ "Local News in Brief: Child-Abuse Files Ordered Opened". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. August 23, 1988. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  4. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (3rd ed.). London, England: Omnibus Press. p. 122. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
  5. ^ a b Barber, Sherry (1988-09-18). "A Lesson Learned From Family Tragedy". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  6. ^ "Girl who appeared on 'Growing Pains' told show's star: My dad says he's going to kill me!". The National Enquirer. New York City: American Media, Inc. September 16, 1988.
  7. ^ Fuentes, Gabe (September 7, 1988). "Inquiry in Barsi Case Dropped Too Soon, Panel Says". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  8. ^ "Three Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide". Los Angeles Times. 1988-07-28. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  9. ^ Ap (1988-07-30). "Child Actress Is Slain, Apparently by Father". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  10. ^ Phillips, Deidre C. (August 10, 1988). "Child actress Barsi, mother buried". Los Angeles Daily News. Los Angeles, California: Southern California News Group.
  11. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5.
  12. ^ "Don Bluth – .... on Movies, Games and Visions". Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  13. ^ Cawley, John. "Don Bluth All Dogs Go To Heaven". Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2013.

External links[edit]