Barsi on an episode of Punky Brewster
Judith Eva Barsi
June 6, 1978
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||July 25, 1988 (aged 10)|
Canoga Park, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Homicide by gunshot|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills|
Judith Eva Barsi (June 6, 1978 – July 25, 1988) was an American child actress of the 1980s. She began her career in television, making appearances in commercials and television series as well as in the film Jaws: The Revenge. She provided voices for animated characters in The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go to Heaven. She and her mother, Maria, were killed in July 1988 in a double murder–suicide perpetrated in their home by her father, József Barsi.
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 U.S. who fled the Hungarian People's Republic following the 1956 uprising. The two immigrated at different times and met at a restaurant in California, where Maria worked as a server. Both had been previously married.
Maria Barsi began preparing her daughter to become an actress when Judith was five. 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. 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 per year (equivalent to $216,000 in 2019), which helped her family buy a three-bedroom house in West Hills, Los Angeles. As she was short for her age—she stood 3 ft 8 in (112 cm) at age 10—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."
Abuse and death
As Barsi's career success increased, her father 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. 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.
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. The physical violence continued, with Barsi telling a friend that her father threw pots and pans at her, resulting in a nosebleed. As a result of her abuse, Barsi began gaining weight and exhibited disturbing behavior, such as plucking out her eyelashes and pulling out her cat's whiskers (see trichotillomania). In May 1988, after breaking down in front of her agent, Ruth 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.
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. 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.
On July 28, 1988, the Los Angeles Times reported that three people were found dead in an apparent murder–suicide and that the bodies were believed to be those of Barsi, her mother Maria, and her father József. 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. Barsi and her mother were buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in adjoining plots.
Barsi's final film, All Dogs Go to Heaven, in which she provided the speaking voice of Anne-Marie, was released posthumously in November 1989. 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". Bluth stated he intended to feature her extensively in his future productions. The closing credits song "Love Survives" was dedicated in her memory.
|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|
|Jaws: The Revenge||Thea Brody|
|1987–1988||The Tracey Ullman Show||Little Girl / Karen||2 episodes|
|1988||St. Elsewhere||Debbie Oppenheimer||Episode: "The Abby Singer Show"|
|1988||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)|
- 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.
- Barsi, Ági (1999). What Will You Do?. A Better Life. ISBN 0967169399.
- "Local News in Brief: Child-Abuse Files Ordered Opened". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. August 23, 1988. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
- Donnelley, Paul (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (3rd ed.). London, England: Omnibus Press. p. 122. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
- Barber, Sherry (1988-09-18). "A Lesson Learned From Family Tragedy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- "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.
- Fuentes, Gabe (September 7, 1988). "Inquiry in Barsi Case Dropped Too Soon, Panel Says". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
- John, Johnson (17 August 1988). "Barsi Probe: Judge Asked to Reveal Files on Slain Child". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
- "Local News in Brief: Bodies Identified as Child Actress, Mother". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
- Ap (1988-07-30). "Child Actress Is Slain, Apparently by Father". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
- Phillips, Deidre C. (August 10, 1988). "Child actress Barsi, mother buried". Los Angeles Daily News. Los Angeles, California: Southern California News Group.
- Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5.
- "Don Bluth – .... on Movies, Games and Visions". Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- Cawley, John. "Don Bluth All Dogs Go To Heaven". Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
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