Judith Barsi was born June 6, 1978 to József and Maria Barsi in Los Angeles, California. József and Maria were both immigrants from the Hungarian People’s Republic. They met in a restaurant in the United States.
Maria was determined to make her daughter an actress. Her first commercial was for Donald Duck Orange Juice. Judith was in the film Fatal Vision when she was just 5 years old. Her character was based on the real life story of Kimberley MacDonald who, along with her mother and sister, were murdered by Kimberley’s father in 1970.
In her short career, Judith was on many television shows and in over 50 commercials, but she is most known for voicing Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven and Ducky in The Land Before Time.
Judith was small for her age and often played younger characters. In fact, when she was discovered at a skating rink at the age of 5, the agent thought she was 3 years old. At the height of her career, Judith was making $100,000 (almost $220,000 today) a year. Maria managed Judith’s career and József was an alcoholic, often out-of-work, plumber. Judith’s parents used her income to purchase a home.
József was abusive to his wife and daughter. He threatened to kill them multiple times. One notable occasion was when Judith and Maria were leaving to film Jaws: The Revenge in the Bahamas. József approached his young daughter with a knife and told her that if they didn’t come back immediately after filming, he would slit her throat. József was open with friends that he wanted to kill his wife and daughter.
In 1986, Maria went to the police to report the abuse. Neither she or Judith had any proof of the abuse, so Maria did not proceed with charges. Judith had told people about the abuse that included József hitting her with a pan causing her nose to bleed.
People noted that Judith began exhibiting signs of trichotillomania in 1988. She pulled out her own eyelashes and the whiskers of her cats. That same year, Judith had a emotional breakdown on set and her agent encouraged Maria to seek help. Judith was taken to a child psychologist who reported the family to Child Protective Services.
Maria told CPS that she was taking Judith and leaving József. She had rented an apartment where the mother and daughter spent their days away from József. They returned to the family home to sleep. Maria kept putting off moving out altogether and told friends that she didn’t want to lose her home and possessions.
On July 25, 1988, Judith was expected at the offices of Hanna Barbera Productions to audition for a cartoon series. She never showed up. Two days later, a neighbor heard a loud bang at the Barsi home. She called the police. They arrived to find the house on fire.
József had shot his wife and daughter sometime earlier that week. He continued to live in the home with the dead bodies for an unknown amount of time before dousing them with gasoline and setting the house on fire. 55 year old József retreated to the garage where he shot himself in the head. Maria was 48 years old. Judith was just 10.
Both All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Land Before Time were released after Judith’s death. The director of both films stated that he was impressed with Judith’s skills, even at such a young age, and would have continued to cast her in his films.
Judith can be seen on episodes of television shows that include: Knots Landing, The Twilight Zone, The Fall Guy, Punky Brewster, Cheers, Cagney & Lacey, The Love Boat, St. Elsewhere and Growing Pains. She was in commercials for Toys ‘R’ Us, Campbell’s Soup and Jif Peanut Butter.
Judith and her mother are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery where her headstone features her most famous line from her favorite role in The Land Before Time, “Yep, yep, yep.”
In 2020, the Barsi home was featured on an episode of Murder Flip House. The current residents moved in the house in 2001. They claim to feel cold spots and that the garage door opens on its own. After a little redecorating and knocking out a wall to install a set of French doors, the current family seems to feel much better.
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