The winner is listed first, in CAPITAL letters.
YUL BRYNNER in "The King and I", James Dean in "Giant", Kirk Douglas in "Lust for Life", Rock Hudson in "Giant", Laurence Olivier in "Richard III"
INGRID BERGMAN in "Anastasia", Carroll Baker in "Baby Doll", Katharine Hepburn in "The Rainmaker", Nancy Kelly in "The Bad Seed", Deborah Kerr in "The King and I"
ANTHONY QUINN in "Lust for Life", Don Murray in "Bus Stop", Anthony Perkins in "Friendly Persuasion", Mickey Rooney in "The Bold and the Brave", Robert Stack in "Written on the Wind"
DOROTHY MALONE in "Written on the Wind", Mildred Dunnock in "Baby Doll", Eileen Heckart in "The Bad Seed", Mercedes McCambridge in "Giant", Patty McCormack in "The Bad Seed"
GEORGE STEVENS for "Giant", Michael Anderson for "Around the World in 80 Days", Walter Lang for "The King and I", King Vidor for "War and Peace", William Wyler for "Friendly Persuasion"
This was the year that the regular competitive category of Best Foreign Language film was introduced, instead of only being recognized as a special achievement Honorary Award or as a Best Picture nominee (as in 1938). The nominees were from West Germany, France, Japan, Italy, and Denmark. The first winner in this new category was Federico Fellini's La Strada with Anthony Quinn and a second nomination for Original Screenplay. Its win would help to create an interest in foreign-language films - with subtitles. Another Fellini film, The Nights of Cabiria (1957) would win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in the following year.
This was also the year that all of the five Best Picture nominees were in color.
Another possible trend, signaled by the victory of Marty (1955), toward simpler, shorter, intimate dramas, did not occur again in 1956. Instead, there was the splashy emergence of wide-scale, expensive super-epics (colorful dramas, musicals, comedies, and costume pieces) all at least two hours long - mostly to compete with the resurgence of television.