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1956 (MCMLVI) was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1956th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 956th year of the 2nd millennium, the 56th year of the 20th century, and the 7th year of the 1950s decade.
- February 11 – British spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean resurface in the Soviet Union after being missing for 5 years.
- February 14–26 – 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
- February 16 – Only a little more than four months after the release of the 70mm version of Oklahoma!, the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, is released in CinemaScope 55. MacRae and Jones had previously starred in Oklahoma! Carousel, intended for showing in 55mm, ends up being shown only in 35mm.
- February 22 – Elvis Presley enters the United States music charts for the first time, with "Heartbreak Hotel".
- February 23 – Norma Jean Mortenson legally changes her name to Marilyn Monroe.
- February 24 – Doris Day records her most famous song, "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"; it is from Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which Day co-stars with James Stewart.
- February 25 – Nikita Khrushchev attacks the veneration of Josef Stalin in a speech "On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences".
- March 1 – The International Air Transport Association finalizes a draft of the radiotelephony spelling alphabet for the International Civil Aviation Organization.
- March 2 – Morocco declares its independence from France.
- March 9
- March 10 – The Fairey Delta 2 broke the World Air Speed Record, raising it to 1,132 mph (1,822 km/h) or Mach 1.73, an increase of some 300 mph (480 km/h) over the previous record, and thus becoming the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph (1,600 km/h) in level flight.
- March 11 – After having opened in London the previous year, Laurence Olivier's film, Richard III, adapted from Shakespeare's play, has its U.S. premiere in theatres and on NBC Television on the same day. On TV it is not shown in prime time, but as an afternoon matinée, in a slightly cut version. It is one of the first such experiments of its kind. Olivier is later nominated for an Oscar for his performance.
- March 12
- March 13 – Elvis Presley releases his first gold album titled Elvis Presley.
- March 15 – The Broadway musical My Fair Lady opens in New York City.
- March 19 – At age 48, Dutch boxer Bep van Klaveren contests his last match in Rotterdam.
- March 20 – Tunisia gains independence from France.
- March 21 – The 28th Academy Awards ceremony is held.
- March 23 – Pakistan becomes the first Islamic republic, and a national holiday is observed in the country including the former East Pakistan state.
- June 1 – Vyacheslav Molotov resigns as foreign minister of the Soviet Union; he later becomes ambassador in Mongolia.
- June 3 – British Rail renames 'Third Class' passenger facilities as 'Second Class' (Second Class facilities had been abolished in 1875, leaving just First Class and Third Class).
- June 4 – Montgomery Bus Boycott the related civil suit was heard in federal district court and the court ruled in Browder v. Gayle (1956) that Alabama's racial segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional.
- June 5 – Elvis Presley performs "Hound Dog", on The Milton Berle Show, scandalizing the audience with his suggestive hip movements.
- June 6 – In Singapore, chief minister David Marshall resigns after the breakdown of talks about internal self-government in London.
- June 8 – General Electric/Telechron introduces model 7H241 "The Snooz Alarm", first snooze alarm clock ever.
- June 10 – 1956 Summer Olympics: Equestrian events open in Stockholm, Sweden (all other events are held in November in Melbourne, Australia).
- June 13
- June 14 – The Flag of the United States Army is formally dedicated.
- June 15 – Eindhoven University of Technology is founded in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.
- June 18 – The last foreign troops leave Egypt.
- June 21 – Playwright Arthur Miller appears before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, D.C.
- June 23 – Gamal Abdel Nasser becomes the 2nd president of Egypt, a post he holds until his death in 1970.
- June 28
- Poznań 1956 protests: Labour riots in Poznań, Poland, are crushed with heavy loss of life. Soviet troops fire at a crowd protesting high prices, killing 53 people.
- The film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner, is released only a few months after the film version of R&H's Carousel. It becomes the most financially successful film version of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical up to this time, and the only one to win an acting Oscar (Yul Brynner wins Best Actor for his performance as the King of Siam). It is also one of two Rodgers and Hammerstein films to be nominated for Best Picture (which it does not win).
- June 29
- June 30 – 1956 Grand Canyon mid-air collision: A TWA Lockheed Constellation and United Airlines Douglas DC-7 collide in mid-air over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, killing all 128 people aboard both aircraft in the deadliest civil aviation disaster to date; the accident leads to sweeping changes in the regulation of cross-country flight and air traffic control over the United States.
- July 2 – A lab experiment involving scrap thorium at Sylvania Electric Products in Bayside, New York, results in an explosion.
- July 4 – The first Lockheed U-2 spy plane flight over the Soviet Union.
- July 8 – The mountain Gasherbrum II, on the border of Pakistan and China, is first ascended by an Austrian expion.
- July 9 – The 7.7 Mw Amorgos earthquake shakes the Cyclades island group in the Agean Sea with a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The shaking and the subsequent tsunami leave fifty-three people dead.
- July 10 – The British House of Lords defeats the abolition of the death penalty.
- July 13 – John McCarthy(Dartmouth), Marvin Minsky(MIT), Claude Shannon (Bell Labs), and Nathaniel Rochester (IBM) assemble the first coordinated research meeting on the topic of Artificial Intelligence at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. USA.
- July 16 – With the closing of its "Big Tent" show in Pittsburgh, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announces all subsequent circuses will be "arena shows" due to changing economics.
- July 24 – At New York City's Copacabana nightclub, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis perform their last comedy show together (their act started on July 25, 1946).
- July 25 – The Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria sinks after colliding with the Swedish ship SS Stockholm in heavy fog 72 kilometers (45 mi) south of Nantucket island, killing 51.
- July 26 – Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal sparking international condemnation.
- July 30 – A joint resolution of Congress is signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, authorizing "In God we trust" as the U.S. national motto.
- July 31
- November 1
- November 3
- November 4 – 1956 Hungarian Revolution: More Soviet troops invade Hungary to crush a revolt that started on October 23. Thousands are killed, more are wounded, and nearly a quarter million leave the country.
- November 6 – United States presidential election, 1956: Republican incumbent Dwight D. Eisenhower defeats Democrat challenger Adlai E. Stevenson in a rematch of their contest 4 years earlier.
- November 7 – Suez Crisis: The United Nations General Assembly adopts a resolution calling for the United Kingdom, France and Israel to withdraw their troops from Arab lands immediately.
- November 12 – Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia join the United Nations.
- November 13 – Browder v. Gayle: The United States Supreme Court declares illegal the state and municipal laws requiring segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama, thus ending the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
- November 14 – Fighting ends in Hungary.Confirmation needed
- November 15 – Middle East Technical University is founded in Ankara, Turkey.
- November 18 – At a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow Nikita Khrushchev utters his famous phrase "We will bury you".
- November 20 – In Yugoslavia, former prime minister Milovan Đilas is arrested after he criticizes Josip Broz Tito.
- November 22 – The 1956 Summer Olympics begin in Melbourne, Australia.
- November 23 – The Suez Crisis causes petrol rationing in Britain.
- November 25 – Fidel Castro and Che Guevara depart from Tuxpan, Veracruz, Mexico, en route to Santiago de Cuba aboard the yacht Granma with 82 men.
- November 28 – Roger Vadim's drama film And God Created Woman, released in France as Et Dieu ... créa la femme, propels Brigitte Bardot into the public spotlight as a "sex kitten".
- November 30 – Floyd Patterson wins the world heavyweight boxing championship that is vacant after the retirement of Rocky Marciano.
- January 1
- January 3
- January 5
- January 7
- January 9
- January 12
- January 14 – Ronan Bennett, Northern Irish writer
- January 16 – Martin Jol, Dutch football manager
- January 17 – Paul Young, English musician
- January 18 – Tom Bailey, English musician
- January 19 – Adriana Acosta, Argentine militant and field hockey player
- January 20 – Bill Maher, American actor, comedian, and political analyst
- January 21 – Geena Davis, American actress
- January 24 – Lounès Matoub, Algerian Berber Kabyle singer
- January 25 – Bronwyn Pike, Australian politician
- January 26 – Pat Musick, American voice actress
- January 27
- January 28 – Peter Schilling, German singer
- January 29
- January 31
- March 1
- March 2 – Eduardo Rodríguez, President of Bolivia
- March 5
- March 7 – Bryan Cranston, American actor
- March 11 – Rob Paulsen, American voice actor
- March 12 – Steve Harris, British musician, composer (Iron Maiden)
- March 13 – Dana Delany, American actress
- March 16 – Vladimír Godár, Slovak composer
- March 18 – Ingemar Stenmark, Swedish alpine skier
- March 19 – Yegor Gaidar, Russian economist and politician
- March 20
- March 21
- March 24 – Steve Ballmer, American businessman, former CEO of Microsoft (2000–2014), and current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers
- March 25 – Matthew Garber, American child actor (d. 1977)
- March 28
- March 29 – Evie, American Christian musician
- March 30 – Shahla Sherkat, Iranian feminist journalist
- April 3
- April 4
- April 5 – Diamond Dallas Page, former American professional wrestler
- April 6
- April 12
- April 13 – Possum Bourne, New Zealand rally car driver (d. 2003)
- April 14 – Barbara Bonney, American soprano
- April 16
- April 18
- April 19 – Sue Barker, British tennis player and television presenter
- April 21 – Phillip Longman, American demographer
- April 22 – Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Finnish conductor
- April 26 – Koo Stark, British actress
- April 27 – Bryan Harvey, American musician (d. 2006)
- April 28 – Hanka Paldum, Bosnian singer
- April 30 – Lars von Trier, Danish film director
- May 1 – Alexander Ivanov, Russian-born American chess grandmaster
- May 4
- May 5 – Lisa Eilbacher, American actress
- May 6 – Vladimir Lisin, Russian business oligarch
- May 7
- May 9 – Wendy Crewson, Canadian actress
- May 10
- May 13
- May 15 – Dan Patrick, American sports commentator
- May 17
- May 20
- May 23
- May 24 – Michael Jackson, Irish Anglican bishop
- May 26 – Lisa Niemi, American actress and dancer, widow of Patrick Swayze
- May 27 – Giuseppe Tornatore, Italian film director
- May 28
- May 29 – La Toya Jackson, African-American singer
- May 31 – Yoshiko Sakakibara, Japanese voice actress
- June 1 – Peter Tomka, Judge, International Court of Justice
- June 3 – George Burley, Scottish football manager
- June 5 – Kenny G, American saxophonist
- June 6
- June 7 – Antonio M. Reid, American record executive
- June 8 – Udo Bullmann, German politician
- June 9 – Patricia Cornwell, American novelist
- June 10 – Borwin, Duke of Mecklenburg, German head of the House of Mecklenburg
- June 11
- June 14 – King Diamond, Danish heavy metal musician
- June 15 – Robin Curtis, American actress
- June 17
- June 20 – Cho Chikun, Korean professional Go player
- June 23 – Randy Jackson, American musician and talent judge
- June 25
- June 26
- June 27 – Heiner Dopp, German field hockey player
- June 28 – Noel Mugavin, Australian rules football player
- August 2 – Jim Neidhart, American professional wrestler
- August 4 – Gerry Cooney, American boxer
- August 5
- August 6 – Stepfanie Kramer, American actress
- August 7 – Ernie Johnson, Jr., American sportscaster
- August 8 – Chris Foreman, English rock guitarist
- August 10
- August 12 – Bruce Greenwood, Canadian actor
- August 14
- August 17 – Dave Jones, English football manager
- August 19 – Adam Arkin, American actor
- August 20 – Joan Allen, American actress
- August 21 – Kim Cattrall, English-born Canadian actress
- August 22 – Paul Molitor, American baseball player
- August 23 – Andreas Floer, German mathematician (d. 1991)
- August 24
- August 25 – Henri Toivonen, Finnish rally car driver (d. 1986)
- August 26 – Mark Mangino, American football coach
- August 29 – Mark Morris, American choreographer
- August 31
- September 1 – Bernie Wagenblast, American or and broadcaster
- September 2 – Angelo Fusco, Provisional Irish Republican Army member
- September 3 – Pat McGeown, Provisional Irish Republican Army member (d. 1996)
- September 11 – Phillip D. Bissett, American politician
- September 12
- September 14
- September 15 – George Howard, American jazz saxophone musician (d. 1998)
- September 16
- September 17
- September 18 – Tim McInnerny, English actor
- September 20
- September 21 – Jack Givens, American basketball player
- September 23 – Paolo Rossi, Italian soccer player
- September 24 – Gregory Peter Panos, American futurist, writer, inventor
- September 25 – Jamie Hyneman, American television co-host
- September 26 – Linda Hamilton, American actress
- September 29 – Sebastian Coe, Baron Coe, British athlete; co-ordinator of the London 2012 Olympic Games
- September 30 – Gordon Elliott, British-Australian television personality and talk show host
- October 1
- October 2 – Charlie Adler, American voice actor and director
- October 3 – Ralph Morgenstern, German actor
- October 4 – Christoph Waltz, German-Austrian actor
- October 8 – Stephanie Zimbalist, American actress
- October 10 – Amanda Burton, Irish actress
- October 11 – Nicanor Duarte, President of Paraguay
- October 12 – Trần Đại Quang, President of Vietnam
- October 16 – Rudra Mohammad Shahidullah, Bangladeshi poet (d. 1992)
- October 17
- October 18
- October 19 – Carlo Urbani, Italian physician (d. 2003)
- October 20 – Danny Boyle, English film director
- October 21 – Carrie Fisher, American actress and novelist (d. 2016)
- October 23 – Dwight Yoakam, American country singer, musician and actor
- October 26 – Rita Wilson, American actress and producer
- October 28 – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 6th President of Iran
- November 5 – Rob Fisher, British keyboardist and songwriter (Climie Fisher) (d. 1999)
- November 8 – Richard Curtis, English film director, producer and screenwriter
- November 10 – Mohsen Badawi, Egyptian entrepreneur, political activist, and writer
- November 14
- November 17 – Kelly Ward, American actor
- November 18
- November 20
- Bo Derek, American actress and model
- Olli Dittrich, German actor, comedian, television personality and musician
- November 21 – Terri Welles, American actress and adult model
- November 22 – Richard Kind, American actor
- November 23
- November 24 – Jouni Kaipainen, Finnish composer
- November 26 – Dale Jarrett, American race car driver
- November 27
- November 28
- November 29
- January 3
- January 5 – Mistinguett, French singer and actress (b. 1875)
- January 9 – Marion Leonard, American actress (b. 1881)
- January 10 – Karl Ludwig Schmidt, German theologian (b. 1891)
- January 12 – Norman Kerry, American actor (b. 1894)
- January 13 – Lyonel Charles Feininger, German painter (b. 1871)
- January 14 – Sheila Kaye-Smith, English writer (b. 1887)
- January 18 – Konstantin Päts, 1st President of Estonia (b. 1874)
- January 21 – Sam Langford, Canadian boxer (b. 1883)
- January 23 – Sir Alexander Korda, Hungarian-born film director (b. 1893)
- January 27 – Erich Kleiber, German conductor (b. 1890)
- January 29 – H. L. Mencken, American writer (b. 1880)
- January 31 – A. A. Milne, English author (Winnie The Pooh) (b. 1882)
- March 12 – Bolesław Bierut, Polish Communist politician and statesman, former Prime Minister and Presdident of Poland (b. 1892)
- March 14 – David Browning, American Olympic diver (b. 1931)
- March 17
- March 18 – Louis Bromfield, American writer (b. 1896)
- March 20
- March 21 – Edwin Thanhouser, American actor, businessman, and film producer, founder of the Thanhouser Company (b. 1865)
- March 22 – Eduardo Lonardi, Argentine military officer, (de facto) 30th President of Argentina (b. 1896)
- March 25
- March 28 – Thomas de Hartmann, Russian composer (b. 1885)
- March 30 – Edmund Clerihew Bentley, English inventor (b. 1875)
- March 31 – Ralph DePalma, Italian-born race car driver (b. 1884)
- April 6 – Pío Valenzuela, Filipino physician and one of the leaders of the Katipunan (b. 1869)
- April 13 – Emil Nolde, German-Danish painter (b. 1867)
- April 15 – Kathleen Howard, Canadian-born American actress and opera singer (b. 1884)
- April 19 – Ernst Robert Curtius, Alsatian philologist (b. 1886)
- April 21
- April 24 – Henry Stephenson, British character actor (b. 1871)
- April 26 – Edward Arnold, American actor (b. 1890)
- June 28 – Friedrich Schmidt-Ott, German lawyer, scientific organizer, and science policymaker (b. 1860)
- April 29
- April 30 – Alben W. Barkley, 35th Vice President of the United States (b. 1877)
- October 1 – Albert Von Tilzer, American songwriter (b. 1878)
- October 2 – George Bancroft, American actor (b. 1882)
- October 9 – Marie Doro, American stage & silent film actress (b. 1882)
- October 12 – Don Lorenzo Perosi, Italian composer (b. 1872)
- October 14 – Don Jules Richard, French mathematician (b. 1862)
- October 16 – Don Jules Rimet, French football administrator, 3rd president of FIFA (b. 1873)
- October 17 – Anne Crawford, British actress (b. 1920)
- October 19 – Isham Jones, American musician (b. 1894)
- October 22 – Hannah Mitchell, English socialist and suffragette (b. 1872)
- October 25 – Risto Ryti, 23rd Prime Minister of Finland and 5th President of Finland (b. 1889)
- October 26 – Walter Gieseking, French conductor (b. 1895)
- October 27 – Charles S. Johnson, American sociologist (b. 1893)
- October 30 – Pío Baroja, Spanish novelist (b. 1872)
- November 1
- November 2 – Leo Baeck, German rabbi, scholar and theologian (b. 1873)
- November 3 – Jean Metzinger, French painter, theorist and critic (b. 1883)
- November 5 – Art Tatum, American jazz pianist (b. 1909)
- November 6 – Paul Kelly, American stage and film actor (b. 1899)
- November 10
- November 12 – Juan Negrín, 67th Prime Minister of Spain (b. 1892)
- November 19 – Francis L. Sullivan, English actor (b. 1903)
- November 22 – Theodore Kosloff, Russian-born ballet dancer, choreographer and actor (b. 1882)
- November 24 – Guido Cantelli, Italian conductor (b. 1920)
- November 26 – Tommy Dorsey, American trombonist and bandleader (b. 1905)
- November 27 – Hugo Ballin, American artist, film production designer, and director (b. 1879)
- December 2 – Dell Henderson, Canadian actor (b. 1883)
- December 3 – Alexander Rodchenko, Russian artist (b. 1891)
- December 6 – Dr B. R. Ambedkar, A founding father of modern India, the architect of its constitution and Indian dalit leader (b. 1891)
- December 7 – Huntley Gordon, Canadian actor (b. 1887)
- December 9 – Charles Joughin, British baker, Tiranic survivor (b. 1878))
- December 10 – David Shimoni, Israeli poet and writer (b. 1891)
- December 12 – Ewald André Dupont, German film director (b. 1891)
- December 14 – Juho Kusti Paasikivi, twice Prime Minister of Finland and 7th President of Finland (b. 1870)
- December 16
- December 17 – Eddie Acuff, American actor (b. 1903)
- December 21 – Lewis Terman, American psychologist (b. 1877)
- December 23 – Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Spanish architect (b. 1867)
- December 26 – Holmes Herbert, English actor (b. 1882)
- December 30 – Ruth Draper, American actress (b. 1884)
- London Institute of World Affairs, The Year Book of World Affairs 1957 (London 1957) full text online, comprehensive reference book covering 1956 in diplomacy, international affairs and politics for major nations and regions