Who was Judith Barsi?
Judith Eva Barsi was a child actress from America known for her appearances in the films and TV projects ‘Fatal Vision’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Jaws: The Revenge’, ‘Growing Pains, ‘The Land Before Time’, and ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’. She had become a popular young actress in the 1980s before she was killed along with her mother in a double murder-suicide perpetrated by her father. A native of California, Barsi made her acting debut in the 1984 television miniseries ‘Fatal Vision’. She debuted on the big screen in the 1986 action drama ‘Eye of the Tiger’. Barsi’s rise to fame was almost meteoric and she was making about $100,000 a year when she was in the fourth grade. Her fame and fortune ended up making her father increasingly angry, and he regularly threatened both Barsi and her mother. They were eventually shot dead in their California home in July 1988. Her final film, ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’, was released posthumously in November 1989.
Childhood & Early Life
Judith Barsi was born on June 6, 1978, in Los Angeles, California. Both of her parents, József Barsi and Maria Virovacz, had escaped communist Hungary after it was occupied by Soviet Russia in 1956. József first came to New York and later moved to California. It was there that he met Maria. They subsequently married.
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Barsi’s mother wanted her to become a child actress and began training her quite early in her life. In 1983, when Barsi was five years old, she was discovered at a San Fernando Valley skating rink. However, her short stature confused people and she was presumed to be a three-year-old girl.
The very first commercial that she appeared in was for Donald Duck Orange Juice. In the ensuing years, she was featured in over 70 commercials. Barsi debuted as an actress in NBC’s 1984 miniseries ‘Fatal Vision’, portraying a character named Kimberley MacDonald.
That year, she also appeared in an episode of ABC’s police drama series ‘Jessie’. In 1985, she guest-starred in CBS’ ‘Knots Landing,’ ‘The Twilight Zone’, and ABC’s ‘The Fall Guy’ and was featured in television films like ‘Kids Don’t Tell’, ‘Do You Remember Love’, and ‘There were Times, Dear’.
In 1986, she portrayed the recurring character Anna in NBC’s sitcom ‘Punky Brewster’ and appeared in popular shows like ‘Trapper John, M.D.’ and ‘Cheers’. That year, she also made her big screen debut in the action drama film ‘Eye of the Tiger’. In the film, she got the opportunity to share screen space with Gary Busey.
In her second film, the 1987 thriller ‘Slam Dance’, she worked with Tom Hulce, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Virginia Madsen and Harry Dean Stanton. The film was shown out of competition at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Between 1987 and 1988, she appeared in two episodes of Fox’s variety show ‘The Tracey Ullman Show’. She played a character credited as Little Carol in an episode of the third season of ABC’s sitcom ‘Growing Pains’ in 1988. That year, she also played Debbie Oppenheimer in an episode of NBC’s drama series ‘St. Elsewhere’ and Billie Foster in ‘ABC Afterschool Special’. She returned to the big screen as a voice actress in ‘The Land Before Time’ in 1988. She was one of the three actresses that voiced Ducky, a green female Saurolophus, in ‘The Land Before Time’ film franchise. This was her first collaboration with Don Bluth, with whom she worked once more, in ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’, before her death.
The animated fantasy film ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’ was her final project. She lent her voice to Annie-Marie, a seven-year-old orphan who has the ability to speak to animals. The film was released in November 1989, 16 months after her death.
Barsi was an incredibly successful young actress in her time, earning as much as $100,000 a year when she was in the fourth grade. She was short for her age, which led to her treatment with hormone injections at UCLA. The filmmakers often cast her in roles written for younger actresses.
Abuse & Murder
Her father József was an alcoholic and his addiction only worsened as Barsi became more and more successful in her career. He was angry and repeatedly told his wife and daughter that he would kill them. He was arrested at least once but let go after the police did not find any signs of physical abuse on Maria. As a result of abuse, Barsi started gaining weight. She also displayed several troublesome behaviours, such as plucking out her eyelashes. She once confided to one of her friends that her father often hurled pots and pans at her, which ended up causing her nose to bleed from stress. She even had an episode of nose-bleeding while auditioning for ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’. The Child Protective Services were immediately called and Maria told the caseworker that she would divorce her husband. However, she never went through with it. On July 25, 1988, József shot both Barsi and Maria and then proceeded to burn their bodies after dousing them with gasoline. Afterwards, he entered the garage and shot himself in the head. Barsi and her mother were buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.